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Is Studying Abroad Dangerous? 4 Real Things to Consider

4th May 2016 Posted by: Holly Smith

IN THE past couple of years, every continent on our planet has been met with difficulty. It’s becoming a tough world out there and with the ever presence threat of terrorism, disease, discrimination and crime, it’s easy to reconsider your dream to study abroad. But are these problems a threat in reality? In this article we look at the real dangers of studying abroad.


One of the biggest topics that has appeared on our news channels this year is undoubtedly terrorism. It can strike anywhere; in London, Manchester, New York, Boston, Istanbul, Madrid, Mumbai, Bangkok, Paris, Brussels...

The list of places rocked by terrorism is extensive  –  and yet it should not be putting you off studying abroad.

The likelihood for you to be struck by lightning far outweighs your risk of being caught up in a terrorist attack. Of course, the prospect of witnessing a terrorist attack is frightening and it’s something that you can take into account if you plan to live in a major city. But it’s no different to any of the other risks you weigh up when studying abroad, like your risk of getting sunstroke in Mexico, or a bad snow storm affecting New York.

The real danger?

Becoming paranoid. After attacks happen, it’s normal to over think and worry too much about the endless possibilities. Remember to stay vigilant, but don’t let it ruin your life and stop you going to new places. Ultimately, terrorists want to spread fear – give into that, and they achieve their goal.


The Zika virus  made headlines in 2016 after an outbreak in South and Central America and the Caribbean. With a few cases in North American and European countries as well, it’s no wonder that study abroad students might be worried. Zika is a virus that has virtually no symptoms, but can affect the foetus in pregnant women.

The media has had a lot to say on this topic but in reality, unless you are pregnant (in which case you may need to reconsider your choice) the virus is not considered dangerous. It typically lasts 2 days to one week, and so long as you don’t plan to conceive a child while studying abroad, it isn’t something that should influence your decision.

The real danger?

Mental illness. While it’s not the same as a physical disease, it can feel like it’s on the same scale. You’re alone and in a foreign country and sometimes it can feel like the end of the world. Depression and anxiety are two common illnesses that can worsen or even develop when studying abroad. Make sure that you’re aware of the symptoms so that you know when to go for help yourself, or when you need to help a friend. And, of course, make sure you get all the relevant inoculations and health insurance before you study abroad.


Moving to a new country is tough, and it’s even tougher if you don’t ‘fit in’. Whether you have different colour skin, sexual orientation or accent, there’s likelihood that discrimination could affect you. Just look at Trump and his views on foreigners or Russia and their LGBT rights and you can see that places can feel unwelcoming or hostile. But remember that one person’s view is not the same view as the whole country. One person could mock your accent or make fun of your hair, just like someone may do at home, but if you use common sense when choosing your destination, it’s unlikely you’ll be in danger. After all, it’s a very multicultural world out there.

The real danger?

Isolating yourself from fear of not fitting in. You will not be the only international student on campus, so if you find it hard to integrate yourself with the locals right away, try going to an international students’ meet-up, where you’ll find that you won’t be alone.


Crime is everywhere, whether you’re being pick-pocketed in the markets of Marrakesh or a victim of fraud in China. While these are unlikely crimes, it is true that you need to keep your guard up when studying abroad. If you’re planning to study in a big city, know where the rougher areas are and avoid walking through them alone and at night. If you’re in a country that is known for drug smuggling, keep watch of your belongings when at airports.

Crime, however, is not a large threat to international students, and you’ll soon learn what the most common crimes are that happen in your area. After that, it’s just like being at home – simply stay sensible and aware of your surroundings.

The real danger?

Losing your phone. Yes, it’s true. Whether you misplace it on a drunken night out, leave it in a taxi or someone spies your bag slightly open, phone theft is (unfortunately) the most common crime for year abroad students. If this concerns you, consider registering with a service that can track or disable your phone if it gets stolen.


There’s no denying that studying abroad has its dangers. You’re in a different and unfamiliar place that can feel a million miles away from home. But all those things that you perceive to be dangerous may not be the most pressing issues that you’ll face. Rarely, catastrophes do happen, but you can never really prepare for what will happen in your study abroad country or your home country. So enjoy yourself and set off for an adventure of a lifetime; don’t focus on the improbable. Do your research, and make yourself aware of the REAL dangers of studying abroad.

This article was written in 2016 and updated in 2017.


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