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Staying safe while abroad

Photo courtesy of Erin Hassanzadeh

Today, the media’s portrayal of traveling abroad is scary. Television shows and movies like “Locked Up Abroad,” “Hostile” and “Taken,” leave students and parents thinking twice about traveling out of the country.

This could be an irrational fear and could cause students to miss out on an opportunity to submerge themselves in a culture, learn more about themselves and experience the world outside of the U.S.

“It’s a little scary when you see all the things on the media about what is happening overseas,” said junior Bianca D’Amico. “You have to be careful.”

D’Amico, a Drake student, plans to travel to Rome, Italy this spring semester.

Even though D’Amico is nervous about being away from home and in a new place, she can’t help feeling excited. For D’Amico, going abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that opportunity will be harder once she is out of school worrying about car payments or having a job back home in the states. With this and safety in mind, D’Amico has a plan for how she will stay safe as she goes abroad.

“I plan on following the tips that Jen Hogan has given us,” D’Amico said. “Things like ‘Don’t carry a lot of cash or your passport, only copies of your passport,’ and ‘Always be aware of your surroundings.’”

When you are going to study aboard, you are responsible for yourself. Taking time to study and understand the culture you are going to be staying in can help not make you stick out.

“In Rome, you have to dress conservatively,” said junior Erin Hassanzadeh. “It is a Catholic city, you need to keep your wardrobe in mind. Some of the people don’t like it if you wear shorts or tank tops. You have to be smart and be aware you will catch the hints and pick up on social cues quick.”

Knowing enough language to get around is a big way to not stick out abroad. Also talking to other students who have traveled abroad can help you know different things about the country you wish to visit. In Spain, the way people dress is much more formal compared to the casual way we dress in the U.S.

“Some of the Americans would dress very casual like they did back home,” said junior Scott LaWall. LaWall visited Spain and had asked a fellow who gave him a basic idea what to pack so that he didn’t stick out.

“When they did, they would get weird looks on the subway and around from different people as we traveled, but I knew to dress nice so that helped,” LaWall said.

It’s important to keep in mind basic advice like don’t go anywhere with strangers, familiarize yourself with local laws, avoid bad areas and not going off on your own are ways to stay safe in state and out of state.

“I think that where ever you go you are taking risk,” said senior Emily Olson. Olson traveled to Kampala, Uganda. “But you are taking a risk going outside at night in the U.S. If you are smart and careful about it in most places you will be just fine.”

For most of the college students this is a chance for them to see a whole new side of themselves. When you are off at college, you are on your own, but it’s in those moments — being in a whole new place with different people and surroundings — that you become an individual.

“I plan to utilize the other students around me so that I’m not alone,” said first-year Stephanie Hohbein. She will be going to Rome this spring.

“With a group of friends we can all figure things out together,” Hohbein said.

Going abroad can be a worthwhile experience. It is a great way to open your eyes to different people and learn about their culture and how they live.

“Definitely if you get the chance, go abroad,” Olson said. “Don’t let the safety issues be a road block. If you are cautious and pay attention to your surroundings, you will be just fine.”

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