Legal Customs


When traveling overseas, it's important to obey the laws and regulations of the country you're visiting, especially those pertaining to drug and alcohol use. Every year, many U.S. citizen students are arrested abroad on drug charges or because of their behavior under the influence. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so be informed.

Please visit U.S. Department of State - Students Abroad - Drinking & Drugs.


The penalties for both illegal drug use and trafficking are very real and very severe, in many cases tougher than here in the U.S. Remember, you are subject to local laws and not U.S. laws. If you should be arrested, contact the U.S. consulate at once.

According to the U.S. State Department, one-third of U.S. citizens arrested abroad are charged with possessing or using drugs. Worldwide, an average prison sentence for narcotics possession is seven years. In some countries, the sentence for certain drug charges is death. Never transport or deliver a package for anyone. If the package turns out to contain drugs, you can be arrested even if you were ignorant of its contents. To be safe, stay away from illegal drugs or anyone who uses or sells them.

Again, please visit U.S. Department of State - Students Abroad - Drinking & Drugs.

Obeying the Law

Whether at your program site or elsewhere, when you visit another country, you are that country’s guest and are expected to follow its laws. They may be very different from those of the U.S., which is why it is so important to find out what they are. Then be sure to follow them carefully – even if you feel they are repressive, irrational, or antiquated.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that other countries will excuse illegal acts simply because you are a foreigner or a student.

Remember to respect their laws, use common sense, and avoid any areas of unrest or disturbance. Deal with only authorized outlets when you exchange money or buy and sell airline tickets and travelers checks. Do not carry or deliver packages for anyone. Also, familiarize yourself with local laws before selling personal effects such as clothing, cameras, etc. Follow the laws strictly. The penalties you risk are severe.

Breaking a law will, at a minimum, get you dismissed from your study abroad program and possibly deported from your host country.

Be aware that U.S. officials can only visit, advise, and contact family or friends for you. They CANNOT intercede in the legal process, represent you at trial, or pay legal fees.