Studying abroad: Experts share checklist of guidelines and precautions to ensure safety of Indian students going overseas

Attacks on Indian students studying abroad have become a concerning issue in recent years, sparking fear and outrage among communities back home. These incidents, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults, not only inflict harm on the victims but also shatter the dreams and aspirations they had set out to pursue in foreign lands. The reasons behind such attacks are often complex, rooted in prejudice, cultural misunderstandings, or even xenophobia.

In the face of these challenges, it becomes imperative for Indian students venturing abroad to take precautions and prioritize their safety. Experts say that understanding the socio-cultural dynamics of the host country, respecting local customs, and being aware of potential risks are crucial steps towards safeguarding oneself. Additionally, staying informed about the areas known for safety concerns and avoiding them whenever possible can significantly reduce the chances of encountering harm.


Moreover, building a strong support network within the international student community and seeking assistance from the Indian embassy or consulate in times of distress can provide a sense of security and guidance. Embracing a proactive approach to safety, such as traveling in groups, staying vigilant in public spaces, and communicating regularly with trusted contacts, can further enhance one’s ability to navigate unfamiliar environments safely.

Three experts on studying and working abroad share their views and guidelines that can help Indian students safeguard their well-being and ensure that their educational tenure and stay abroad is both safe and enriching —

Abhijit Zaveri, Founder & Director of Career Mosaic, says, “We are seeing a lot of incidents on the rise in recent times where South Asian students have been attacked. To ensure safety, students should do some research before relocating to a new country. They must familiarize themselves with key safety measures, local regulations, and cultural expectations. Students should recognize that news articles and blogs offer helpful insights for adapting to various aspects of life in a foreign country.”

“From understanding visa regulations to acquainting oneself with local news and regulations covering immigration, housing, employment, taxation, and healthcare, every detail counts. Moreover, it’s imperative to comprehend one’s rights and responsibilities as an international student, including academic integrity policies, student codes of conduct, and cultural sensitivity,” he adds.

Steps suggested —

1) Pre-Arrival Preparation: 
   – Research thoroughly about the destination’s local laws, cultural norms, and safety precautions.
   – Read blogs and articles by former students or locals to gain practical insights into everyday life.

2) Legal and Emergency Readiness:
   – Register with the Indian Embassy upon arrival for timely updates and emergency support.
   – Keep a list of emergency contacts, including the local police, medical services, and the embassy, easily accessible.

3) Cultural Integration 
   – Engage in cultural orientation sessions to understand and respect local customs and societal expectations.
   – Familiarize yourself with the academic integrity policies and student conduct codes of the educational institution.

4) Safety in Routine and Socializing:
   – Inform trusted friends or colleagues about your regular routes and schedules.
   – Choose well-lit and busy paths for commuting, especially during late hours.
   – Avoid late-night outings; if necessary, travel in groups to ensure collective safety.

5) Campus Security:
   – Opt for accommodations on or near a secured campus, especially if pursuing undergraduate studies.
   – Participate in campus safety programs and make use of safety apps recommended by the institution.

Saurabh Arora, CEO and Founder of University Living, opines, “The safety and well-being of students studying abroad is paramount, and students must take proactive measures to safeguard themselves during their stay in a new country. By prioritizing safety and proactive measures, the students can stay safe and make the most of their international experience and achieve their academic and personal goals.”

He suggests these steps for Indians studying and working abroad — 
1) Verified accommodation:
Opting for verified accommodations is paramount. By partnering with trusted providers, we ensure that students can book housing close to their university and enjoy a seamless transition into their new environment.
2) Awareness is key
Staying informed is equally crucial. We encourage students to stay updated on current events and safety advisories in their host country, empowering them to make informed decisions and navigate potential challenges with confidence.
3) Register with embassy
Registering with their country’s embassy or consulate upon arrival is a proactive step that provides students with access to vital assistance and alerts in case of emergencies.
4) Research about potential pitfalls
Additionally, utilizing travel advisory websites or apps enhances their ability to stay informed about potential risks of venturing in unknown territory.
5) Stay connected
Maintaining connections with their community is vital for students’ well-being. Regular communication with friends, family, and fellow students fosters a support network and ensures that trusted individuals are aware of their plans and whereabouts.
6) Be aware of surroundings
Practicing situational awareness is key to staying safe in unfamiliar surroundings. By trusting their instincts, avoiding risky areas, and securing their belongings, students can minimize potential risks and enjoy a worry-free study experience.
7) Respect local laws and customs
Respecting local laws and customs is essential for fostering positive relationships with the host community. Understanding and adhering to cultural norms, alcohol and drug regulations, and public behavior expectations demonstrate respect and contribute to a harmonious environment.
8) Plan for emergencies
Planning for emergencies is a proactive measure that every student should take. Establishing a plan, including access to local emergency contacts, medical facilities, and embassy details, ensures that students are prepared to handle unexpected situations effectively.

Aritra Ghoshal, Founder and Director of OneStep Global, informs, “Ensuring the safety of students studying abroad is paramount. Although worries about student safety in popular study locations have increased recently, there are practical steps students may take to protect themselves without being overwhelmed by fear.”

Steps suggested by him —  

1. Stay connected: Aspiring international students should initiate conversations with in-country representatives and attend pre-departure briefings of their chosen universities from their home countries. If direct representatives are not available, they should maintain continuous contact with the international offices of the universities.

2. Stay clear of unsafe areas: Like any part of the world, cities abroad have areas that are less safe. Hence, when selecting off-campus accommodation, it’s vital to prioritize safe neighborhoods over cost. Additionally, students should educate themselves about the less safe areas and avoid them to ensure safety in daily activities.

3. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way: The urge to earn through part-time jobs can lead students to accept positions in unsafe conditions or locations at odd hours. Personal safety should be their priority, even if it means a longer job search. 

4. Register with local authorities and stay vigilant: Students should always get themselves registered with the local police, have emergency contacts registered with the international office, keep their phones charged, download safety applications which have direct access to the security support of the city.

While studying abroad offers invaluable opportunities for personal growth and academic enrichment, it is essential to remain vigilant and prepared for any potential threats. By taking necessary precautions and staying safe, Indian students can better focus on their educational pursuits and contribute positively to the global community.

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