Staying safe while studying abroad

Charlotte Booy Howlett shares her essential tips for staying safe when studying abroad, from 'Down Under' to Mexico City.

Charlotte Booy Howlett
23rd October 2019
Image Credits: Francesca Tirico from Unsplash
Do you need a break from the cold conditions of Newcastle? I certainly do. Then maybe you should consider studying abroad next year! Although intimidating, studying abroad can offer so many learning opportunities and leave you with the fondest memories that not many other experiences can provide. The chances of you being apprehensive about flying the nest of Newcastle are probably high. Nevertheless, it’s time to send that little voice of doubt packing and embark on your new adventure. 

Here are my essential safety tips for some of the most popular study abroad destinations for UK students: 


So many people are attracted to the big city life in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but in my opinion, Australia has so much more to offer than skyscrapers, traffic jams, and bustling bars. Australia is completely unique: boasting rainforests, deserts, alpine mountains and underwater ecosystems, Australia has something for everyone. However, with a diverse range of ecosystems and wildlife, the biggest threat you will encounter to your safety is Australia’s natural environment. When swimming in the sea, be aware of strong rip currents. The Aussie lifeguards will patrol designated sections you should stay within. Likewise, shark attacks are rare, but you can further reduce your risk by swimming in the designated areas. When partaking in a bush walk or hike always wear plenty of insect repellent, stick to the path to avoid coming across dangerous (and most likely poisonous) flora and fauna, and stick with your mates! Never trek alone. Try to group together a party of 3 or more in case of emergencies. You can read more about staying safe in the land of Aus here.

Image Credits: Mark Galer from Unsplash

New Zealand  

Are the Kiwis onto something? Definitely! New Zealand has so much to offer, from scenic walking trails, to miles of mountains to ski on; it is the perfect location for all you adrenaline-junkie students. It has an abundance of extreme sports, plus the picturesque environment to match. And unlike Australia, there isn’t even any deadly wildlife for you to worry about! Whether you want to ski, snowboard, skydive or sail, make sure you purchase insurance that not only covers the duration of your stay in New Zealand, but covers your uncontrollable desire to partake in extreme activities. Remember to bring your insurance policy details with you and I would recommend carrying an emergency contact numbers with you at all times. 

Image Credits: Matthew Buchanan from Unsplash

The Netherlands

The Netherlands offer over 2,000 university programs taught in English, which is amazing for any of you wanting to experience a completely different culture, but who may be hesitant to attempt learning a foreign language. As a result, many international students choose to study in the Netherlands, making the country very internationally diverse. Alternatively, many students decide to study in the Netherlands due to its ‘relaxed’ Dutch culture. The Netherlands has a reputation for being tolerant on the use of so-called ‘soft drugs’. In reality, most drugs are prohibited and this tolerance exists only for designated premises in the major cities, such as Amsterdam. So for any of you attracted to the Dutch ‘lifestyle’, the use of cannabis is only allowed in specific designated cafes. 

Image Credits: Adrien Olichon from Unsplash


If you’re wanting to throw yourself into the deep end and immerse yourself in a culture so different to the UK, Japan is the place to be. Try the mountains of sushi, visit the authentic spiritual temples, embrace J-pop, cosplay and Japanese fashion. Even try and learn the language. That being said, Japan is very big on manners, so equip yourself with a perfected etiquette skill set before embarking on your journey. For example, loud, boisterous behaviour is not as acceptable as it is on a night out in the Toon. Meanwhile, keep the PDA to a minimum. In Japan, public displays of affection are viewed as being poorly mannered. Therefore when greeting a local, bow or shake hands, never hug and kiss anyone when you greet them. Additionally, if you are lucky enough to visit a Japanese home, a ryokans, temple or traditional restaurant it is essential you remove your shoes. Time to get the sliders out! I’d highly recommend taking shoes that slip on and off easily as you will find yourself doing this a lot.

Image Credits: Sorasak from Unsplash


This one is for all you penny savers. Mexico is one of the cheapest places to study, and when it comes to day-to-day expenses, the country is known for its affordability and low living costs. You can rent an apartment for around $300 and eat out for $5 or less. So, even if you attend one of the more expensive universities, you won’t find yourself out of pocket. That means you can spend your extra cash on exploring colonial churches, Mayan ruins, or any of the World Heritage Sites throughout the country. Result! The local currency is the Mexican Nuevo Peso, known colloquially as ‘Peso’. UK debit and credit cards are widely accepted for payment and in ATMs, however, I would recommend investing in a prepaid travel card to avoid hidden charges, such as ATMs adding a non-sterling transaction fee, cash withdrawal fees and interest charges. My prepaid travel card was a life saver. It meant I could buy more beer. Read more on Mexico here.

Image Credits: Jezael Melgoza from Unsplash

Wherever you decide to study abroad, take the chance, grab the opportunity with both hands and enjoy an adventure like no other.

If your destination of choice was not mentioned, head to the Travel Aware campaign for more information on travel advice and safety tips. It’ll be worth the read.

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