There are always risks associated with being abroad. In my personal opinion, the rewards are generally much greater. When I meet college students, I can quickly tell that some of them are not risk tolerant and they should therefore travel or study only in more Westernized nations, in order to ease in to the process of cultural adaptation. For other students, I know at first glance that they could thrive no matter whether they were in Kenya, India or Hong Kong.
Each individual must assess his or her personal level of risk before traveling. Get up-to-date with the latest areas of major conflict or tension. Maintaining a level of caution is always wise, but I would also suggest not to get caught up in the paranoia created by media sensationalism of bad events abroad. The world has never been more accessible, and there have never been more opportunities to travel, work or volunteer in unusual, challenging and interesting locations. In the end, it is up to you to decide your tolerance for risk, based on careful self-examination and an assessment of your possible destinations.
I was considering going to another country to volunteer, but I have recently heard a lot of stories about North Americans having awful things happen to them abroad. How can I possibly feel safe?
-Allison, 20, Toronto, ON