Hey — keep your eyes on that purse.
As pre-collegiettes become collegiettes, many new opportunities present themselves. With a new sense of freedom, many of us embark on trips abroad. Some choose to hit the road by going backpacking over the summer, while others embrace the study abroad experience. Either way, collegiettes are exposed to amazing experiences, life lessons, lasting friendships and moments they will never forget. However, going abroad can be dangerous if not handled correctly, especially if a collegiette is traveling alone.
No matter how you choose to travel abroad, here are some safety tips to keep you out of danger’s way while you are exploring Europe!
1. Always be aware and cautious
This might seem like common sense, but it is important to be a hundred times more aware and cautious when you are traveling alone in a foreign country. You don’t need to become a Nervous Nelly who is constantly suspicious of everything and everyone, but you do need to be more attuned to your surroundings. “Part of the fun of traveling is taking chances by moving outside of your comfort zone. However, you should continually monitor your surroundings,” says Nick Gozik, director of the Office of International Programs at Boston College. “This does not mean being suspicious of everyone with whom you come into contact, yet simply keep note of what is taking place around you. When in doubt, ask locals for their advice. A hotel or hostel front desk worker, for example, can point out areas that should be avoided, especially at night.”
While it is never fun to assume the worst of people, sometimes it is better to be overly cautious. Women are often the target of catcalls and other forms of unwanted attention in Europe. The best way to handle this, according to Gozik, is “to simply continue walking, while pretending not to notice. If you continue to have problems, find a police person or someone else who can assist.” The wise words of our parents, “better safe than sorry,” are extremely important when it comes to traveling overseas alone.
2. Plan well and let friends and family know of your plans
Moms and dads are definitely huge proponents of this tip, but keeping your other family and friends up to date on your whereabouts will only help you out in the long run. Gozik suggests leaving a copy of your itinerary with your family and checking in with them often. “Your friends and family will be reassured to know that you are safe, and they will likely enjoy experiencing the trip vicariously through you,” he says.
Put a plan in place with your parents in terms of how often they should expect to hear from you. If you promise to Skype them every Sunday, stick with that plan. If something comes up, let them know that you are OK, just busy. Leave your family a list of emergency contacts just in case they need to reach you.
Darci Miller, a senior at the University of Miami, made sure to keep all her loved ones in the loop while abroad in London. “It definitely was tricky because of international calling plans and fees, but whenever there was Wi-Fi I would send my mom a Facebook message letting her know that I was still alive and well,” she says.
3. Dress appropriately and don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself
Depending on where you find yourself traveling, the definition of what is appropriate may change. People in some countries dress more conservatively, while others embrace less clothing. Gozik recommends trying to blend in to the local culture. “By not standing out, you are less likely to be the target of a crime,” he says. “You also have the ability to learn more about the host culture by becoming an observer rather than an object of observation.” He also suggests leaving any T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts and other items with U.S. logos at home. While natives might wear these items at times, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself as an American tourist. As much as you love your college hoodie and your football jersey, it is better to leave these items at home for your safety.
Try to avoid calling attention to yourself with any flashy accessories or jewelry, which could make you a target of theft. Caroline Finnegan, a senior at the University of Illinois, witnessed what can happen when too much attention is drawn to a foreigner. She recalls: “A friend of mine used her iPad every morning in Amsterdam at our hostel in the Wi-Fi zone. The cover of her iPad was cute (cheetah and patent leather), but it definitely made her stand out among the other hostel guests. She hid her passport in one of the sleeves of the iPad cover and put it in a safe when we went bike riding one day. When we returned, the safe was broken into and the iPad and her passport were both gone!”
4. Choose your purse (and other baggage) wisely
Collegiettes love their accessories, so before you head abroad, make sure to purchase sensible purses, bags and suitcases. The right purse might be what saves you from becoming a victim of the local pickpockets. Gozik recommends bringing a bag or purse that can be zipped, especially if you’re going to a big city. “Purses that are open at the top can make it easy for pickpockets to pull out wallets, passports and other valuables,” he says. “A purse that has an inside pocket, which can be zipped, is especially valuable.”
Jenna Fanduzzi, a student at Marquette University, went to Barcelona one summer and says there were pickpockets everywhere. “I brought a small shoulder bag and was pretty good about keeping it with me at all times,” she says. “However, one of the girls on my trip put down her purse for a brief moment and the purse was instantly snatched. Luckily, she only had a phone and a driver’s license in the bag, so it’s also a great idea to not carry your entire wallet at all times—only bring what you absolutely need.”
Be wary of carrying around a backpack as well. “In larger cities that are often associated with tourists, backpacks have the drawback of too many pockets, which can be opened without the wearer’s awareness,” warns Gozik.
Once you pick your baggage, make sure to wear it in a smart fashion. Holding a bag or purse in front of you will make it more difficult for pickpockets to access the bag without your knowledge. Vy Truong, online content and PR marketing specialist at Contiki Vacations, suggests carrying a purse with a strap that goes over your shoulder. Consider investing in a slashproof messenger bag to avoid any sticky situations.
To read more tips for staying safe while traveling by yourself abroad, be sure to check out the full article here.
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