Survey: Students more likely to engage in risky behaviors while abroad

Schools need to train students to stay safe, expert argues

When studying abroad, American students are more likely to binge drink, use illegal drugs, and take other risks, according to a new survey from On Call International, a global medical evacuation and emergency assistance company.

Researchers surveyed 1,000 students or recent graduates who had studied abroad within the past two years and found that:

  • 50% of respondents who drink consumed more alcohol while abroad than while at home;
  • 32% experienced romantic encounters with strangers;
  • 29% used illegal drugs while abroad;
  • 20% accepted a car ride from a stranger who was not a taxi driver;
  • 11% drank alcohol to the point of "blacking out" more often than at home;
  • 11%  tried an illegal drug for the first time; and
  • 11% had been detained by law enforcement.

"I can't say I was terribly surprised," says Jim Hutton, chief security officer at On Call.

About 300,000 American students study abroad—and are vulnerable to theft and other crimes, especially while they're intoxicated or otherwise incapacitated.

"In unfamiliar situations, risky behaviors like drinking, drug use, and going home with a stranger take on a new level of risk," Hutton says.

Because schools are responsible for their students' safety, even if they're studying abroad, Hutten encourages colleges to introduce training sessions before the students leave home that teach them how to stay safe in foreign locations (Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 1/22; Camera, U.S. News & World Report, 1/20).

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