How To: (Safely) Study Abroad

Studying abroad is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience, but like anything adventurous and exciting, it also has its risks. The recent death of a 21-year-old study abroad student from Bates College in Rome brings up those risks and fears of everyone from families and friends to the students who go abroad. While mourning the loss of such a young life, it is also an important time to remember why studying abroad is so worthwhile and vital to our millenial generation.
To study abroad is to voluntarily take yourself out of your personal bubble – whether it be your home or your campus – and place yourself in a culture completely unknown to you. Why is this so important? It’s hard to define, but speaking with my friends and having my personal experiences abroad it is clear that once you go abroad your worldview is blown wide open and never seems to close again. Seeing new parts of the world teaches you about how valuable culture and history is to humankind. As you learn about the differences between you and your new home, in the process you also become aware of some distinct similarities, realizing that at the end of the day we all share the same basic needs. Learning to appreciate another part of the world makes you more open-minded and curious about things outside of yourself. 
Taking advantage of the opportuity to see the outside world is significant for our generation, especially, because the more students our age who go abroad means more future politicians, lawyers, businesswomen and men, teachers, and doctors who will be able to appreciate different cultures, ways of thinking, and traditions. This will result in a higher percentage of our generation learning to be adapatbale and tolerant of cultural differences because we know the underlying similarities, thus signailing more peaceful and positive movements around the world.
However, with the abovementioned death of an American student in Rome, I don’t want to undermine the risks we take as we move away from our families and schools. A big city anywhere, even in the United States, requires a certain amount of caution, and Europe, Asia, Australia, etc., is no different. To prevent students who are on the fence about going abroad from shrinking away from the opportunity, here are a few tricks of the trade to ensure you will always feel safe as you embark on your adventure! 
  1. Have a money belt. These go around your stomach and usually cannot be seen. They are perfect for passports, money, credit cards, etc. and will help you be sure your most valuable items are safe.
  2. Find one or two friends who live near you and make sure you always stay together.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the best ways to get home and find out from locals the streets and areas you should avoid.
  4. Have a trusted taxi service’s number in your phone.
  5. Keep in mind that you are in a foreign country and getting crazy without friends you trust is not a good idea.
  6. If you are really worried, invest in Mace or Pepper Spray! 
Overall, safety is an issue no matter where you are, especially as young women. But just as you came to feel safe in Oxford, you will come to know the place you are living and with that understanding comes assurance that you are okay. It is always a good idea to have friends with you whom you trust and it is always a good idea to keep things like your passport, money, and phones close to you. But overall, don’t let your fears keep you from an experience that will truly change your life.
Bon voyage!