Safety and Security Abroad

I think one of the major reasons people don’t study abroad, aside from money, is the fear of lacking safety and security while abroad.  You have to keep in mind that while you don’t know the laws or the land, most places you will think of going are safe.  After all, people live there too, so foreign countries can’t be all danger and doom.

Unless you count Hostel, which most of us don’t.

I can’t speak of other countries, but I felt very safe at all times while in Europe.  European culture is very similar to American culture and if you just use common sense, you won’t get into too much trouble.  Europeans are generally favorable toward Americans (except for the French, but they don’t like anybody).  You’ll be warned not to wear labeled clothing from America… that’s pretty useless.  Everything sold in European stores has some type of English or romanticized image of California emblazoned across the chest, so you’ll be fine.

Feel free to ask the tourist desk folks which parts of town to avoid.  They’ll chuckle but will happily cross out the areas you don’t want to travel to.  Guys, keep your wallet in the front pocket.  Girls, keep one hand on the purse at all times.  Buy an under-clothing fanny pack at your local travel store for ten bucks.  Carry plastic, but not too much.  Learn the emergency number… it’s not 911 anymore.  Don’t get too drunk alone (hey, that’s the sign of a problem anyway).

We heard several friend-of-a-friend stories.  I bet they’re mostly legend, but I’ll list a few here:

·         If you wear a purse, make sure it has a wire in the strap.  Word is, thieves will cut it right off your arm otherwise.

·         Ignore children, especially large groups of them.

·         If some woman tries to hand you her {purse, wallet, shopping bag, number, baby}, put your hands in your pocket and let her drop it.

·         Never take photos with both hands, always keep one on the valuables.

We’d all hope this goes without saying, but don’t try to outsmart the street gamblers playing that “which cup is the ball under” game.  Within two minutes, we saw three people lose fifty euro each.  Ouch.

And for the love of God (no, seriously), don’t mess with the Swiss Guards at the Vatican.  Their uniforms may be puffier than a bag of marshmallows, but they will take you down in no time.  I don’t speak from experience.

We had a group of over thirty students travelling through more than seven countries for a total of thirteen days each and nobody had issues.  Be smart and you shouldn’t either.

Choosing a program (and why Bregenz is a good choice)

So you’re looking to Study Abroad.  Good job, now muster the confidence to search for a program and commit.  The earlier you do, the more time you’ll have to save money.  I can give you some general advice about choosing a program but let’s face it, you’ll probably forget all of it or be swept away by some cool marketing campaign.  That’s alright, here’s a little bit about the program I chose and why YOU should choose it to.

The KIIS Study Abroad program is perhaps the cheapest and full-featured programs you’ll come across.  While their business class offerings are a bit scarce, there are definitely enough options to take care of your needs.  Luckily, their most feature-rich and well-established program in Bregenz, Austria, can help you grab some international study classes.

Let’s start off with the first thought to cross your mind: who wants to go to Austria?

I’m glad you asked.  As someone who studied Spanish, Spain was my top location choice.  That didn’t work out.  In fact, of the roughly thirty students in 2011 Bregenz program, nobody chose Austria first.  Aside from the Hapsburgs, Austria isn’t really known for much of anything (and contrary to popular belief, there are no kangaroos).

None of us walked away disappointed.  The Bregrenz program was the first KIIS program and the only one that runs every single year.  The director has her stuff together.  Here’s why it’s so great:

1.  It’s the only KIIS program and one of the few overall programs to allow extensive travel.

2.  Bregenz is close to Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, France, and Italy.

3.  The program has high upfront cost but is cheap once you get overseas.  Many students spent less than $1000 USD.

4.  Bregenz is westernized enough to feel comfortable but European enough challenge your habits.

5.   It’s a like a resort/retirement town.  Pretty people, pretty places, great shopping.

6.   Beer is cheaper than water, and its good beer at that.

7.   The sun shines from 4:30 AM – 10:00 PM.  Who needs sleep anyway?

The basic program setup is simple.  Monday through Thursday, you go to class.  Classes are two hours each and you can take 1-2 of them.  I know you’re going for the credits, but keep in mind you’ll want plenty of time to enjoy yourself.  Decide accordingly.

Once classes are over Thursday by 3:30, you’re free to travel.  Bregenz is the only program with a Eurail Pass included: this pass gives you unlimited travel throughout five countries (usually Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy).  Want to go to Rome?  Have at it.  Eiffel Tower?  It’s beautiful at night and “sparkles” on the hour.  Skiing on the Alps?  Insurance is included.  You have three days per week to get it all in, so plan early, keep up with homework, and have fun.

Some other programs actually discourage travel while overseas.  Ask a lot of questions and strongly consider Bregrenz.  It doesn’t sound as cool as Paris or Barcelona, but I guarantee you it’s safer, cleaner, and a hell of a lot more fun.


Only Bregenz allows you the opportunity to take cheesy photos overlooking the obscenely beautiful sunset at Lake Constance.