Many people desire to explore the world, and no one desires to fulfill that instinctive drive to discover more than college students. This may stem from the need for cultivating different perspectives, relaxation, fun, a new chapter, etc. Traveling solo may help women, in particular, gain a sense of personal independence. However, when it comes to safety and well-being, women may have different obstacles to overcome when traveling abroad. In this case, it is important to plan ahead and build awareness of laws and regulations, appropriate cultural behavior, dress, and health and safety concerns in the host country, which vary from place to place. I studied abroad in Australia, where laws and regulations are very similar to the United States, but I still took measures to maintain my well-being abroad. In this article, I will focus on four questions surrounding female safety abroad, providing the perspective of both myself and other female students.
Question 1: What were your and your family’s initial feelings about studying abroad as a female?
Name: Alex Jordan
Major: Health Promotion
From: Minnesota, USA
Alex’s perspective: “Everyone was happy and excited for me. I am the first of my siblings to study abroad. My dad was a little nervous for me going at first, but he knows that Australia is safer than America.”
My perspective: Thinking about studying for a semester in Australia excited me. Craving a sense of adventure and fun, I was ready for a new change and to get out of boring Pennsylvania. I definitely considered other places such as Europe, but I really liked the idea of coming to a place similar to the United States, but a lot more laid back. My family was a bit skeptical at first with the distance and cost, but eventually they gave in knowing it was probably the safest place for me to go. My safety as a female was definitely a consideration leading me to the IFSA-Butler program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.
Question #2: What precautions do you take as a woman exploring a new place abroad, and are they any different than any other place you’ve been to?
Major: Business Management
From: Malmӧ, Sweden
Emelie’s perspective: “I feel very at home everywhere in Australia in comparison to Sweden. People are genuinely nice and helpful. I’m less cautious here than I am back at home. I don’t feel the same need to be ‘protective’ of myself here than at home.”
My perspective: In my experience so far, Griffith University is one of the safest campuses to study abroad for a female student. Australians are super friendly, nice, safe people. Violence and crime in Australia is among the lowest in the world. Coming from Philadelphia University where crime is very high, it is very different living on the Griffith University campus. For example, when I first got here I always carried my purse super close to me and would always check to see if somebody was following me at night. But after the first month of getting used to the Australian lifestyle, I realized that nobody is out to get you (compared to some sketchy people in Philadelphia who hassle and intimidate).
The precautions I take abroad are also very similar to back at home. For example, I never travel alone and don’t trust everyone I meet right off the bat. Being a female, these precautions can apply anywhere in the world.
Question #3: What are some ways you’ve experienced safety precautions in Australian culture?
Major: Biomedical Sciences
Devika’s perspective: “I really appreciate the fact that the university has the option of calling security to drop me back home if I ever have to stay at the library late and that there are always security guards walking around campus.”
My perspective: The wellbeing of students is embedded in Griffith’s mission statement, which declares that “we will promote respect for individual rights and ethical standards, commit to participatory decision making and problem solving, contribute to a robust, equitable society and recognize and value diversity.”
Question #4: Have you ever felt discriminated against for acting “like a girl” or just being a female in general? If so, describe it.
Major: International Business
From: New Zealand
Juliana’s perspective: “Back in New Zealand, people are very against discrimination. No one takes crap from it. So I’m sorry, I haven’t been discriminated from my gender. I would like to see someone try.”
My perspective: Discrimination does not seem to be an issue here in Australia or in New Zealand due to the respect for women in both of these cultures. I have not faced gender discrimination in Australia. I do have helpful resources at my disposal, if needed, such as the student counseling center and a number of student groups, including Gender Equality, LBGTIQ, Parental Leave, Gender Pay Equality, In Your Hands, etc.
Women studying at Griffith University hope for a college degree just like back at home. I have adapted here fairly quickly and feel comfortable with how similar Australia is to home – aside from the beautiful weather, palm trees, and beaches!
In conclusion, studying abroad at Griffith University has been truly life changing. I have grown so much in the past 4 1/2 months abroad. By being forced to figure things out on my own, I have gained a sense of empowerment and happiness. By studying abroad in a welcoming environment, I have changed for the better, realizing the importance of being a female who CAN do things on her own independently. I can now travel across the world by myself and figure it all out.
Ally Bishop is a Professional Communications major at Philadelphia University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Griffith University in Australia in 2016. She is a Photographer for IFSA-Butler through the Work-To-Study Program.