10 Things To Know About Safety When Studying Abroad
1. Smoke Machines
In a lot of the clubs in Spain there are smoke machines that come down on the crowd while the DJ is busy playing music and intoxicated locals and tourists are busy dancing. When the cool smoke comes down from the ceiling on the beat of the music, it’s a real thrill and everyone yells in excitement. Though this detail can be thrilling it can also be an ideal time for robbery. I’ve heard several stories about robbery in the blindness of the smoke. A popular thing for these thieves to do is to take your wallet or phone right out of your bag, a sneakier tactic is to cut the strap of your bag in order to steal it from around you or cover your eyes while their partner searches your bag. These people come prepared and prey on the fact that you don’t know what’s going on.
2. Your Bag
You should always be aware of your bag, especially when touring around a foreign place. People who are going to steal from your bag look out for tourists. It is necessary to invest in a purse that you can put across your shoulders and hold while you’re on busy subways and roads. Having the bag by your side will help your awareness, having a backpack with no awareness of who can get inside it is a bad idea.
3. Having Other People Take Your Picture
When studying abroad, seeing beautiful sights, you’re going to want some pictures to remember all the great things you did. When with a group it can be a major bummer when one person has to take the picture instead of being in it, but lending your iPhone of camera out to a stranger for them to take your picture can essentially be handing them your device to take away from you. If you must ask a stranger, ask someone else who is obviously a tourist too and ask to take each other’s pictures.
4. Walking in Groups
Walking in a large group of your american friends can be a red flag to thieves. They’ll see that you’re all tourists and assume you’ll be distracted and therefore, easy targets. This actually happened to us in Madrid when a group of friends came to visit my roommate and I. Thankfully there was an under-cover cop on the same subway and the woman who stole from my friend was arrested, but if it wasn’t for him, her wallet would have been lost forever. Though it is good to walk in groups just be aware of others when you do!
5. Subway/Bus Manners
Make sure to be cautious of the way you act when on public transportation. Though it may be okay in New York City to put your feet up on the seat in front of you, it is not cool in Spain. Both my roommate and I got scolded by strangers in angry Spanish for doing this. It’s embarrassing and singles you out as a stupid tourist immediately.
6. Crowding around a Popular Painting
When my roommate and I went to see the Mona Lisa there was a huge crowd surrounding her. We had to get to the front to see her but in order to do so I had to have strangers on every side of me. Thieves know this, and stand waiting for you to brush up against them so they can easily enter your purse or pockets. Be cautious and keep a handle on your goods!
7. The Way You Dress
The way you dress is the first thing someone notices about you. It can invite unwanted Spanish strangers to whistle and follow you. Make sure to be aware that the way you dress is always your first impression, and when you’re studying abroad the impression you’re setting is not only for you but for your country.
8. Flashing Money
This is something that’s dangerous anywhere you go, but when studying abroad the money is unfamiliar to you and you are holding on to large amounts of it at one time, you can become careless. Remember that this is unsafe and invites others to have a peek at the amount of money you have and where you store it.
9. Looking Lost
Walk tall and proud, this can be difficult when you’re very lost but looking insecure will only invite those waiting around looking out for tourists to approach you. Take a picture on your phone of a Google map image of wherever you’re looking to go. If you get seriously lost, enter a store and ask the person behind the desk where it is you need to go with your visual.
10. Checking Your Coat
If you go abroad in Europe in the Fall like I did, you’re going to be checking your coat at bars and clubs when you go out at night unless you want to hold it all night…When checking a coat make sure that you hold on to your ticket. If lost, the language barrier can make this difficult situation even more complicated. A few safe spots can be in the case of your iPhone (if you take it out and hold on to it), your front pocket, or your bra! Avoid stashing this ticket with your cash, when buying a drink it is likely that the ticket will fall out.