Are you travelling to a country that differs significantly from what you are used to?
Travelling to countries that politically, economically, or culturally differs significantly from what you are used to can potentially put you at risk, both regarding what you do as part of your study and on your spare time. Field studies within sensitive topics can pose a risk not only to you but also to your respondents. Students doing internships abroad, for example within the health care sector, may be expected to handle tasks beyond their competence or capacity.
Societal norms and values concerning gender equality, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion may vary a lot from what you are used to. You may face people in vulnerable positions living under difficult or unfair situations. This situation can be stressful and risky both for yourself and for the people you meet in the host country.
By increasing your knowledge, understanding and awareness you can reduce risk. Below is a short pre-departure checklist as well as a list of questions concerning ethical and moral aspects of your visit abroad. Reflecting on these questions and discussing with other colleagues/students can make you better prepared.
Follow the list Preparations before departure, and clear your computer and phone from data, pictures and recordings that may be sensitive/inappropriate.
Questions to reflect on
- How does legislation and political climate in the country/region differentiate from what you are used to?
- Are there any products/items that would be illegal or require special permission/license to bring into the country? (medicines, food etc)
- What is the situation in the country concerning living conditions, human rights, freedom of speech, academic freedom, corruption?
- Are there major differences in societal norms/attitudes/values compared to what you are used to?
- Are there any topics or issues that are particularly sensitive to talk about in the country/region? In what way is that influenced by the situation you’re in or your role? (For example if you are at your workplace/in class/in the field or on your spare time?
- What norms and values are most fundamental and important to you and how do you react when you meet someone that doesn’t share these? What cultural and norm-driven behaviors, ideas and communication style are you bringing with you that you may need to adapt?
- Are there any potential situation or context during your stay abroad when you may encounter problems, face risks/threats or conflict due to your background, your values or your study field/topic?
- What are the biggest risks for you during your stay abroad? (Politicial conflict/instability, crime, corruption, health-related risks, culture clash, cyber security, undue influence/pressure.)
- Have you got sensitive or classified information, material or data that you need to protect for example by wiping your phone/computer or borrowing an empty computer? (Examples include information of value for the safety of you and your family, Sweden or information with potentially large commercial value.)
- What risks may you impose on others during your stay abroad? Could your presence, the questions you ask or participation in your study put other people in a difficult or dangerous position?
- Could situations arise where you are expected to handle tasks, assist, or act in a way that’s inappropriate considering your competence, role/position, or capacity.
Are you aware of what you may and may not do?
- How can you avoid putting yourself and others at risk?