Dating and App Use

Dating locals and fellow students abroad is not to be discouraged. Healthy dating and sexual experiences can be a fun and positive aspect of traveling, however, safety is key. Before engaging in dating practices, it is helpful to research the dating and relationship norms in the country. For example, in some countries, a heterosexual experience dictates that men must ask women out and the reverse in unaccepted. It is also helpful to research STI rates, legislation and local views on contraceptive use, where contraception and sex-related objects/toys can be found or purchased, pregnancy tests and morning after pills, and what safety measures are available. Seeing a physician is required for most study abroad programs, but if not specified, receiving a reproductive wellness exam before and after travel is an option to maintain reproductive health. It is a good idea for travelers to pack contraception with them before travel in the case that contraception cannot be found locally. 

When going on a date, safety planning is very important. Always set up a date in a public area and maybe with a friend or a group. Never share private information, such as either your home or current address, phone number, financial information, or anything that you would not want a stranger at home to know. 

Establish a check-in protocol with a friend and stick to it. Many different social/dating apps are available to travelers. The most popular one among American students is Tinder. Tinder has an option within their premium package called the Tinder Passport. This feature allows you to set a location before arriving so that travelers can communicate with other local users without yet being there. Other apps that can be used are: Happn, Grinder, Tripr, Bumble, and several others. Some apps are created specifically for travelers and focus on either traveler-traveler connections and/or traveler/local connections. If users want to use the apps to date while abroad, it is important to adhere to safe date and sex practices. Many users also use social apps to only message locals and get advice for their visit, meet locals only for a casual date or to be shown around, and to meet other travelers to coordinate trips.excursions. Regardless of its use, any social media contact should be carefully done. Do not share sensitive information and be wary of 'bots' which are programs that fish for information or attempt to lure users in under false pretenses (one giveaway is if they repeat themselves a lot in the conversation). As long as the risks are understood, student travelers can utilize apps and enjoy meeting new people throughout their trip!

Engaging in Sex Work While Abroad

If considering engaging in sex work abroad, it is very important to consider the cultural implications and the treatment of individuals and communities involved. For example, many sex workers in Thailand are exploited refugees from Myanmar, whereas in the Netherlands sex work is legal and regulated. In many parts of the world, sex work is still illegal, with tourists facing fines and other punishments if caught. Furthermore, engagement with sex work can lead to extortion, blackmail, or violence. It is very important to do your research and practice immense caution in order to avoid continued subjugation of extremely vulnerable populations, as well as maintaining personal safety. 

How to Manage Long Distance Relationships While Abroad

  • Try to plan a visit. If possible, coordinating a visit is a great way to stay connected and have something tangible to look forward to. This can be a fun excursion during which your significant other can contextualize your experience abroad by getting a taste for themselves.
  • Monitoring communication. With all of the new apps and different ways of communicating now, keeping in touch with your partner is much easier, yet still complicated. While some people feel that constant communication is necessary to compensate for the distance, it can actually make things more difficult, as messages can become less meaningful, can be misinterpreted, and a possessive relationship can begin to develop. Speak with your partner prior to departure about preferred communication strategies. 
  • Routines. In many long-distance relationships, there is a time difference. It is important to set up ground rules and create a routine for you both. Knowing each other's daily schedule can be very helpful for communication and staying close. 
  • What to talk about. Speak with your partner about their values in the relationship. This can guide your conversations. Tell each other how your day went and mundane happenings. It will make you both feel more connected and in sync knowing the little details. Although some people do not enjoy talking on the phone, chatting with your partner every other day is also a good break between messaging and is more effective. Sending pictures of your daily adventures directly to  your partner also helps create a more intimate sharing experience instead of public photos on social media accounts.
  • Looking ahead. Talking about your future together helps move the relationship and brings something to look forward to. Every morning and night consider sending them greeting texts. This at least starts and ends the communication, while letting them know you are thinking of them at the start and end of your day.
  • Video-chatting is essential. Video-chatting is great! Many different apps offer video chatting that is just as accessible as messaging (GroupMe, Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc). Consider scheduling video-chats for clear and more intimate communication at least once a week, also giving you both something to look forward to. 

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