Sexual Activity-Study Abroad - Carnegie Mellon University

Sexual Activity

Information on contraception overseas may be more difficult or more available to obtain, depending on the location. OIE recommends that students purchase contraceptives before leaving the U.S, if they will be sexual active while abroad. It goes without saying that STDs are worldwide, so bring protection. Student Health Services can provide more information on contraceptives, AIDS and other STDs.

Keep in mind that HIV can also be transmitted through needles, so do not get a tattoo or an acupuncture treatment in a country with lax health standards. In some countries blood transfusions can also be risky. Contact the program director or the closest U.S. consulate for advice if a transfusion is necessary. Research the health standards of the host country before going abroad.

Sexual Assault & Harassment

Sexual assault can happen anywhere, and unfortunately study abroad is no exception. The newness of the language and setting can make study abroad students particularly susceptible to assault. Never walk alone at night, especially if intoxicated.  Stay away from dark alleys, do not leave beverages unattended or accept a drink from a stranger. Essentially, use common sense and follow the same precautions as in the U.S.

It is important to know the cultural norms surrounding sex and gender, clothing, sex roles, and what constitutes harassment. Know what resources are available including the study abroad program director, English speaking doctors and therapists, Carnegie Mellon’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and Carnegie Mellon’s Sexual Harassment Advisors. CAPS will do phone appointments, and the Sexual Harassment Advisors can be contacted by phone, email or instant message.

Most of the harassment that Carnegie Mellon women have reported over the years is verbal harassment, which can usually be handled by simply ignoring the person – a tactic used in the U.S. as well. Anything more serious than verbal harassment or blatant staring should be addressed in a more serious manner. 

Tips on how to deal with harassment:

  • Ignore it if at all possible. Chances are they are just looking for a reaction.
  • Avoid large groups of men. Discreetly cross to the other side of the street and continue walking.
  • Observe the local women. Find out how other women deal with any harassment that they may receive. Mimicking their behavior will help to reduce or eliminate verbal harassment and stares. Sometimes something as simple as making eye contact can be viewed by men as an invitation. Recognizing that local women do not make eye contact and following their example can often eliminate the unwanted attention. If the opportunity presents itself, ask local women how they respond to certain situations and/or how they avoid harassment.
  • Learn key phrases. Sometimes just the right words are the best solution.
  • Act confident. Always walk with confidence.
  • Leave and find somewhere safe to go. If ignoring the situation does not help, leave and get to a safer location. For students harassed on the street, getting on a bus or going into a store can usually solve the problem. Bus drivers and store owners are often very helpful in these situations.