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There are “real” and “perceived” emergencies that occur abroad. It is important to know the differences between the two before notifying emergency contacts.

Examples of some real, or serious emergencies are: a robbery or assault; losing your passport and money; medical emergencies. Examples of perceived emergencies are: changes in an itinerary; a different accommodation or roommate than expected; types, cost and variety of food available; initial adjustment to cultural surroundings.

It is important to seek local help first (authorities, program leaders, on-site staff, home-stay families, hotel staff, CISI, etc.) regarding both real and perceived emergencies before calling home. When calling home please communicate what your needs and intentions are during the call, such as needing to vent, or notifying loved ones of itinerary changes, so that it does not result in a frantic and unnecessary call from your loved one to CIE regarding a perceived emergency.

If there is indeed an emergency, seek local help first and then call: 

CIE Main Office: 414-229-4846 (during office hours)
UWM Campus Police: 414-229-4627 (available 24 hours a day)

Remember, emergencies can happen at any time and are typically unexpected. You can reduce the chance of a real emergency by not engaging in activities that may endanger you or others. Be attentive and cautious. Exercise good judgment at all times.

All travelers who work with CIE, both students and faculty/staff, should download the AlertTraveler app prior to departure. AlertTraveler is a feature of our Terra Dotta Software (our online application) that provides travelers with country and city intelligence and safety and security alerts. CIE has the ability to view alerts, view and act on impacted travelers and issue check-in requests. More information will be provided in students' applications upon acceptance.

Watch a short video to learn more about AlertTraveler here.


Please visit the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website and read the destination information for safety, security and other general information about the country(ies) in which you will study and/or visit.

CIE sends out safety and security information, such as travel warnings, as they are updated by the U.S. Department of State to your UWM email address. Students are expected to check their UWM email account regularly prior to and throughout their time abroad.

Assistance from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate & STEP Registration

Should you encounter serious social, political, health or economic problems, you may need to work with program administrators to seek local assistance. Be aware that the U.S. embassy can offer only certain kinds of assistance, such as:

  • Provide U.S. citizens with a list of local attorneys and physicians
  • Contact next of kin in the event of emergency or serious illness 
  • Contact friends or relatives on your behalf to request funds or guidance
  • Provide assistance during civil unrest or natural disaster
  • Replace a lost or stolen passport

The primary duty of U.S. embassies and consulates is to fulfill the diplomatic mission of the U.S. government—which is not always the same thing as helping particular travelers in distress. They do not provide the services of a travel agency, give or lend money, cash personal checks, arrange free medical service or legal advice, provide bail or get U.S. citizens out of jail, act as couriers or interpreters, search for missing luggage or settle disputes with local authorities. 

From Study Abroad: A Parent’s Guide. Hoffa, William W. NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Washington, D.C. 1998. 

In addition, students should enroll in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 

Benefits of enrolling in STEP:

  • Receive important information from the embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
  • Help the U.S. embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency.
  • Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

Terrorism & Safety Precautions

Terrorism is a reality of today’s world and can happen anywhere, including urban areas, mass transit systems and international airlines. There is no way to foresee or avoid being a target of terrorism. Carrying a U.S. passport is no guarantee of safety or absolute security. Simply being a foreigner makes any traveler a more likely victim of crime or accidents.

The following precautionshowever, can be taken:

  • Be wary of new acquaintances here just as you would be in the U.S.
  • Be wary of people who rush to approach you or shower you with compliments.
  • Recognize that in any country there can be both sincere and insincere people.
  • Keep a low profile and try not to identify yourself by dress, speech or behavior as a targetable individual.
  • Keep up-to-date on local news.
  • Be wary of unexpected packages and stay clear of unattended luggage or parcels in airports, train stations and other areas of uncontrolled public access.
  • Report to the responsible authorities suspicious persons loitering around residence or instructional facilities or following you.
  • If something happens, as difficult as it may be, try to remain calm/clear-headed. Anger or yelling may only exacerbate a problem.


What are considered “acceptable” gender norms and attitudes, behaviors and interactions differ widely from country to countrySome Americans have a hard time adjusting to differing attitudes they encounter abroad in public and private interactions, particularly between men and women. It is not uncommon to be honked at, stared at, verbally and loudly appraised or to be actively noticed for simply being an American. Eye contact between strangers or a smile at someone passing in the street may result in unexpected or unwanted invitations. From some local perspectives, westerners are often considered promiscuous and the cultural misunderstandings that come out of this image can lead to difficult and unpleasant experiences. Other misleading assumptions and stereotypes exist as well, on all sides.

Travelers can be proactive in avoiding uncomfortable situations by taking the following precautions:

  • Avoid walking alone late at night or in questionable neighborhoods. Do not agree to meet a person whom you do not know in a secluded place. 
  • Be aware that some people from other countries tend to mistake the friendliness of Americans for romantic interest. Firmly say "no" to any invitation you do nowant and give your address only to people you know and trust.  
  • Be cautious until you know and understand local values and customs. Learn the unwritten rules and research the culture as much as possible. Making friends with locals is another way to learn unspoken ways to deflect or to avoid unwanted attention.
  • Provide support for each other. Former students suggest getting together early to talk about what works and what is not helpful, especially when dealing with unwanted attention.

Sexual Misconduct & Consent

The University of Wisconsin System prohibits sexual harassment, sexual assault and other sex offenses (forcible or non-forcible) on University property or in conjunction with University activities, including study abroad programs.

Consent is a voluntary, enthusiastic and clear agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity. Period.

If clear, voluntary, coherent and ongoing consent is not given by all participants, it’s sexual assault. There is no room for ambiguity or assumptions when it comes to consent and the rules do not differ for people who have consented previously. Non-consensual sex is rape.

Consent is:

  • Clear
    • Consent is clear and unambiguous. Is your partner enthusiastically engaging in sexual activity? Have they given verbal permission for each sexual activity? Then you have clear consent.
    • Silence is not consent. Never assume you have consent — you should clarify by asking.
  • Ongoing
    • You should have permission for every activity at every stage of a sexual encounter. It’s also important to note that consent can be removed at any time — after all, people do change their minds!
  • Coherent
    • Every participant in sexual activity must be capable of granting their consent. If someone is too intoxicated or incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, or is either not awake or fully awake, they are incapable of giving consent.
    • Failure to recognize that the other person was too impaired to consent is not “drunk sex.” It is sexual assault.
  • Voluntary
    • Consent should be given freely and willingly. Repeatedly asking someone to engage in a sexual act until they eventually say yes is not consent, it’s coercion.
    • Consent is required for everyone, including people who are in a committed relationship or married. No one is obliged to do anything they do not want to do and being in a relationship does noobligate a person to engage in any type of sexual activity.

It is important to understand that any type of sexual activity without consent, including touching, fondling, kissing and intercourse, is a form of sexual assault and may be considered a crime.

From Santos-Longhurst, A. (2019, February 12). Guide to Consent, from

  • Resources: You can find contact information for campus-specific services, including confidential victim/survivor advocates, medical and mental health providers, legal assistance, and other community resources on the UWM Title IX website. 

Alcohol & Drugs

While abroad, students are responsible for obeying local laws and adhering to the UW-Milwaukee Code of Conduct. It is important for students to recognize alcohol as a potential safety risk, especially when they are not in their home country. Illegal, irresponsible drinking and/or misbehaving while drinking are violations of the University’s policy. UW-Milwaukee has a no-tolerance approach to drug use while abroad. The CIE study abroad director reserves the power to require a student to withdraw without refund if there is any evidence of drug use. Please note, UWM assumes no responsibility for students engaging in illegal drug activity.


Students are responsible for their own personal property. Living abroad should be no more safe or dangerous than living in the U.S. Students can safeguard their personal items from damage or theft by locking rooms and securing money, passports and other personal possessions.



  • ...use common sense.
  • ...beware of pickpocketing.
  • ...keep your residence area locked. Be prudent in revealing information to strangers about your study program and your fellow students.
  • ...avoid crowds, protest groups or other potentially volatile situations. In the event of disturbances, do not get involved.
  • ...know local laws. Laws and systems of justice are not universal. Do not assume that because something is legal in the U.S. that it is legal abroad.
  • ...make sure the resident director, host family or foreign university official who is assigned responsibility for your welfare always knows where and how to contact you in an emergency. When you travel, even if only overnight, leave your itinerary.
  • ...always be aware of your surroundings.
  • ...avoid dark, unsafe/unknown places and walking alone – use the buddy system.
  • ...use alcohol responsibly and always maintain control of your drinks – do not leave them unattended.
    • While abroad, students are responsible to adhere to the UWM Student Code of Conduct. You can review it here.


  • ...take a ride in an unmarked vehicle claiming to be public or professional transit. Scan the vehicle for any obvious or questionable safety concerns, such as missing door handles.
  • ...bring/carry unnecessary items which can be stolen.
  • ...flaunt digital cameras, smart devices, jewelry, etc.; avoid attention.
  • articles near a window where they may tempt thieves or be easily taken. Put valuables in the hotel safe or in the program lock box if one is available.
If you are being robbed, do not attempt to resist or fight back; rather, give up whatever the assailer demands.

Visit our website for more information on safety resources.