Knoweldge of Safety, Culture Critical for Students Studying Abroad

By Kurt Malcore, Geoffrey Liddle, Adam Swedberg

Many students studying abroad get so caught up in the preparation and planning of their upcoming travel destinations that they forget to think about what they need to do to be safe while abroad. Although serious incidents are very rare, students should be informed and take appropriate precaution to avoid potential danger.

UW-Eau Claire senior Ryan Ecklin experienced firsthand what it was like to be hassled while he was studying in Australia. Ecklin and some of his friends were out for a night on the town when they were confronted by five Australian men.

“They picked up on our accents and started to walk towards us,” Ecklin said. “One guy asked for money and said he assumed we had some because we were “rich” Americans,” he continued.

The strangers left Ecklin and his friend alone but they showed up later that evening at a small diner. This time they were aggressive.

“We could tell they weren’t backing down because one guy pulled out a pocket knife and tried to corner us,” Ecklin said. “My friends and I shouted at the bouncers working at the bar across the street. After getting their attention, a couple bouncers started to walk towards the diner and the five men slowly walk away.”

This incident was a wakeup call for Ecklin who felt this confrontation could have been easily avoided if he and his friends had done a few things differently. He acknowledged that it didn’t help his situation that he and his friends had had a few drinks and were yelling and singing while walking down the street. Their American accents, their loud behavior, and their clothing marked them as foreigners.

An important lesson to be taken from Ecklin’s story is that students need to remember they are in a different country whose culture is different from the United States. Students should try blend in rather than cause attention to themselves. They need to understand that the way they dress while abroad can make a big difference on how others treat them.

“Although it’s ok to be proud of where you come from,” said Ecklin, “Students studying abroad need to try and adapt to the surrounding culture,” he said.

This means students should avoid constantly wearing clothing that identifies them as an American, such as a favorite American sport team’s jersey, baseball hat and white athletic shoes. Instead, they should look at what others are wearing around them and dress accordingly. For example, do men wear their shirt tails hanging out? Are short skirts and revealing clothing acceptable clothing for women?

“I bought a lot of Australia brand clothing,” said Ecklin. “Not only was it fun to buy completely different clothes, but it was a chance to show that I appreciated the country that I was living in,” he said.

Althought Ecklin had one negative experience, his over all experience was very positive. The best way for students to learn about staying safe in different countries is through real life personal experiences like Ecklin’s.

"I would definitely recommend studying abroad, because its a great way to learn about different cultures and meet a ton of new friends." he said.

Kurt Malcore Geoffrey Liddle Adam Swedberg

Kurt Malcore, left, is a senior finance major from Brussels, WI. Geoffrey Liddle, middle, is a junior entrepreneur major from Rhinelander, WI. Adam Swedberg, right, is a senior marketing major from Bloomington, MN. They wrote this article for their BCOM Advanced Business Writing class.

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Safety First

These safety tips shouldn't deter you from studying abroad. Instead, they should remind you to be wise on your adventure.

Be aware of your surroundings. Take note of the people or events happening around you as you walk or ride to your various daily activities and other destinations. Be extra cautious of your surroundings at night.

Blend in. Don't speak loudly or obnoxiously. Avoid wearing clothing that identifies you as an American.

Travel in groups. Tell someone where you are going, especially if traveling alone

Photocopy important documents. Keep this information in a safe place, preferably not in the same place as the original documents.

Keep money close at hand. Don't flaunt large quantities of cash.

Check maps before you go out. Looking lost or confused can make you vulnerable.

Just say no. Depending on the country, possession or transportation of drugs is a serious offense resulting in jail or even execution. For this very reason, don't leave your baggage unattended under any circumstances.


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