Students cautioned about risks of overseas travel

From Staff Reports

   As the time approaches for spring or summer breaks, many college students are getting ready to travel abroad. Most will have a safe and enjoyable adventure, but for some, the trip will become a nightmare, according to the U.S. State Department.
   Each year, more than 2,500 American citizens are arrested abroad -- about half on narcotics charges, including possession of very small amounts of illegal substances. A drug that may be legal in one country may not be legal in a neighboring nation. Some young people are victimized because they may be unaware of the laws, customs, or standards of the country they are visiting, the State Department says.
   Besides drugs, alcohol also can get U.S. citizens in trouble abroad. Students have been arrested for being intoxicated in public areas, for underage drinking, and for drunken driving. Some go abroad assuming that local authorities will overlook such conduct. Many believe that they are immune from prosecution in foreign countries because they are American citizens.
   The truth is that Americans are expected to obey all of the laws of the countries they visit, and those who break these laws sometimes face severe penalties, including prison sentences.
   Disorderly or reckless behavior is also to be avoided. In many countries, conduct that would not result in an arrest here in the United States constitutes a violation of local law. It is crucial that students be aware of this risk.
   Being arrested is not the only thing that can happen on a foreign vacation. Young Americans have suffered injury or even death from automobile accidents, drowning, and falls, in addition to other accidents. While these are sometimes chance occurrences, many are caused by alcohol or drug abuse.
   Other have been raped or robbed because they have found themselves in unfamiliar locales or are incapable of exercising prudent judgment while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
   Each February the Department of State distributes information to more than 1,500 college and university newspapers to alert students about conditions that may affect their safety and welfare and urges them to use the above information to inform students of possible of hazards they may encounter outside the United States.
   Students also are urged to consult the Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site, http://travel.state.gov, for the latest travel safety information.