Safety and Security Abroad
As Northwood University extends its global presence, we also recognize the need to carefully monitor the safety of our students and faculty. We monitor the U.S Department of State’s travel warnings and travel alerts closely, and we have also implemented an emergency response plan for our overseas programs. The response plan calls for working with overseas contacts, as well as the International Programs Department, the Dean of International Programs, the Dean of Students’ office and ultimately the President of Northwood University.
Take Ownership of Your Safety
There are a number of things that students can do to ensure their safety once they arrive in the host country.
- Keep all valuables in a discreet place. Scan passport, credit cards and debit cards and email the copies to yourself.
- Report suspicious events immediately.
- Use public transport rather than driving a vehicle while abroad. The majority of American deaths or injuries abroad occur due to automobile accidents.
- Be proactive about your safety. Ask questions about the local area – what are the safe/less safe areas of town? What are the crime patterns? What are the local laws and standards of behavior? Listen to your intuition – if something doesn’t feel safe, it probably isn’t.
Northwood University students who leave the U.S. for any time should register with the U.S. Department of State. This allows a consular officer from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact students in an emergency. During a disaster overseas, American consular officers can assist in evacuation if it becomes necessary, but they cannot assist you if they do not know who or where you are. Northwood students from other countries should register with their home country’s embassy when abroad.
U.S. embassies cannot get students out of jail! While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to the country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Every country has its own criminal justice system, and most are not comparable to the U.S. system. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process for being charged or indicted, prosecuted and possibly convicted and sentenced, as well as for any appeals process. Within this framework, U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families.
U.S. Government Advice
The United States Department of State has developed a set of reports designed to inform travelers of potential risks.
Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Countries where avoidance of travel is recommended will have Travel Warnings as well as Country Specific Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable. A Travel Warning is also issued when the U.S. Government’s ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff.
Travel Alerts (formerly Public Announcements) are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions, generally within a particular country, that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence and high-profile events, such as international conferences or regional sports events, are other examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert.
Country Specific Information is available for every country of the world. They include such information as the location of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the subject country, unusual immigration practices, health conditions, minor political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security information and drug penalties. If an unstable condition exists in a country that is not severe enough to warrant a Travel Warning, a description of the condition(s) may be included under an optional section entitled “Areas of Instability.” On limited occasions, this section also restates any U.S. Embassy advice given to official employees. Country Specific Information Sheets generally do not include advice but present information in a factual manner so the traveler can make his or her own decisions concerning travel to a particular country.
The United States Department of State also has information specifically for Students Abroad.