Some students can avoid travel troubles if they know what they
are getting into before they go abroad.
As finals come to an end and students head off in different
directions this summer, many are bound for adventures in foreign
lands as study-abroad students or just for fun.
For some, international travel could be the best time of their
lives, but for others, it could take a turn for the worst.
Although most of the time students abroad have no problems with
crime or violence, the U.S. Department of State warns travelers of
In the past, students have become victims of pick-pocketing,
robbery or sexual assault while traveling internationally.
Sometimes the students themselves can be the problem.
According to the Department of State, each year more than 2,500
U.S. citizens are arrested abroad. Most problems arise because of
drugs, alcohol or disorderly behavior.
The Department of State stresses that the United States often
cannot help American citizens arrested abroad.
While in a foreign country, students are subject to the laws of
the country they are in, not U.S. laws.
While serious crimes are uncommon, it is not unusual for
students to become victims of petty crime while abroad.
“The greatest risk that students run into is pick-pocketing due
to inattentiveness,” said Kara Bingham, director of study abroad at
Sara Vaccariello, a peer counselor at the Office of
International Programs, described a typical pick-pocketing scam she
ran into on her trip to Granada, Spain.
Vaccariello said that some people try and distract their targets
by putting rosemary in their faces and then attempting to
“When walking in high volume areas, make sure you have your bag
close to you,” Vaccariello said.
When a student is unaware of his or her surroundings, he or she
is an easier target. Problems arise mostly when a person is
unfamiliar with the area and the dangers that may be present,
“Here, we have cultural cues that warn us of dangers, but
because they are different in other countries we don’t get the same
signals telling us to ‘get out of there,'” Bingham said.
In order to avoid becoming a victim or experiencing a problem
abroad, there are several steps students can take to prepare
“Ninety percent of the problem is due to the student not being
aware or because the student was intoxicated,” said Bingham. “The
greatest safety risk is the students’ own behavior.”
The easiest way for students to steer clear of trouble while
abroad is to be attentive and know their surroundings, said Cheri
Lazar, a trans-cultural nurse and travel consultant at Hartshorn
Finding out about warnings or current events in the countries
students plan to visit can be an important step to take.
“The same kind of trouble you can get into on campus is the same
kind of trouble you can get into abroad,” Lazar said. “The biggest
thing is pre-planning.”
Lazar said she tries to focus on individual students rather than
the country they will be visiting.
In the consultation she talks about cultural adjustment, signs
of depression and being aware of ones’ sexual health.
“It is important to be globally aware,” Lazar said.
On campus, the Office of International Programs and Hartshorn
Health Service offer numerous ways to prepare for a trip abroad,
including travel consultations, advising meetings and pre-departure
Vaccariello took Lazar and Bingham’s advice and had a safe trip
“I never, ever felt unsafe because I took to heart what people
advised me and remembered that I was a guest in their country,” she
Info for a fact box…
* Learn as much as you can about the country you are planning to
visit before you leave.
* When traveling at night have at least one other person with
* Don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy jewelry or
* Try and abide by the country’s cultural norms as closely as
* Keep your belongings as close to you as possible.
* Get medical insurance.
* Know the location of the U.S. Embassy.
* Avoid reckless behavior
* Deal only with authorized agents when exchanging money
* Leave copies of your important information at home in case of
an emergency (Passport, Visas, Insurance Info.)
* Be aware of your surroundings.
* Don’t let fear ruin your trip, but do keep your wits about