Let me preface this post with a story. Two of my friends and I were on Easter Holiday (which parallels Spring Break for us here in the US). We decided to go to Spain. We arrived in Barcelona safe and sound, a little confused and disoriented since none of us spoke any Spanish, but alas, we managed. We got off the plane to somehow find the train that took us to the area near our hostel. We found the hostel and dropped off our bags and decided to wander around the city until we could check in: off we went – three distinctly looking American girls wandering around in Barcelona, Spain. The city is absolutely beautiful – filled with culture, art, amazing food, interesting people, and incredible architecture. We spent the whole day exploring Barcelona and decided to head back to the hostel around 5 or 6. We decided to take the metro back because it was faster and easier to manage than walking. As we are waiting for our train, we notice 4-5 local girls near us. The train arrived and we all hurried on, these girls sort of surrounded us closely as we entered the train and I felt someone fumbling around in my backpack. Luckily, I reached back and turned around so the girl backed off. We got on the train and a local pointed to our purses and informed us to check them. We all did, and to our surprise, my friend’s wallet was gone. We all started to freak out. Luckily, the local woman helped us by pushing the emergency button on the metro and tells the man on the intercom what happened. We got off on the next stop go to the police station to report it. We reported it, my friend called her parents, canceled her credit cards, and we finally left. It was a long first day of our ‘Spring Break’.
All I can say is I am thankful my friend’s passport or visa didn’t get stolen. Pick-pocketing unfortunately can happen abroad. You hear horror stories and expect it to never happen to you, but sometimes, it does happen. It is horrible and makes you feel so violated, but it is an unfortunate learning experience if it does. This incident did not by any means ruin the rest of our Easter Holiday – it was just a minor setback. We still had a BLAST in Spain. The best thing you can do abroad – on any program and in any country – is to remain vigilant of all time and aware of your surroundings. Staying alert will not only ensure your safety, it will keep you engaged in the experiences of your program and host country. Remember to carry your purses close to your body, and zipped at all times. Sometimes it might be even helpful to split up your money – some in your wallet and some in your pocket, just in case this does happen to you. Keep your passport locked up at your hostel if you can! It’s just important to be observant, and up front. Don’t be afraid to say something or tell someone if you ever feel unsafe. Education abroad is an exciting, challenging, and very rewarding experience that is worth the obstacles you could encounter.
Jenna Anderson is a junior studying Arts Administration, Dance, and Communications. She participated in the UK Exchange at the University of Central Lancashire in spring 2015.