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.

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