It’s that time in the semester when are grabbing their passports and choosing their classes to study abroad. This can be a very exciting time, but it can also be incredibly nerve-wracking due to hesitation about safety.
Sophomore marketing major Jessica Fernandez studied abroad in London during fall of 2017.
“The idea of studying in another country was so interesting,” said Fernandez, who was also influenced by the idea that after she graduated college, her career might not allow her to live in another country. Fernandez has traveled internationally but never without her mother. A month and a half before she left for London, there were several terrorist attacks in Europe.
“I was definitely nervous,” said Fernandez. “It was very intimidating to think about the fact that these people were going to notice I was not from London.”
Still Fernandez hopped on the plane to spend a semester abroad. While she was in London, there was a bombing on the Tube, the city’s underground transportation system. Fernandez and her classmates were only three stations from where the bomb was planted.
“Our professors were out of town that weekend so it was definitely really scary but everyone back home heard about the bomb before we did,” said Fernandez. “We walked the distance to where the bomb was and that’s when I realized it was a lot closer than I thought.”
Since the professors were not in the city, they contacted the students to address the bombing and put one of the older students in charge. The classmates stayed glued to each other’s sides the rest of the day. But terrorist attacks were not the only thing the students needed protection from.
“The Office of Global Studies, along with our professors, did a pretty good job of warning us about pickpocketing,” said Fernandez. “In retrospect I think they did the best that they could while dealing with people age 18 to 22.”
Fernandez recommends never carrying all of your money at once, and stresses the importance of always knowing where your bag is. She also says to never carry around your phone in your hand and, most importantly, be aware of your surroundings.
PLNU writing professor Catherine Nina Evarkiou took a group of students to Greece for three and a half weeks, along with two other professors, the summer of 2017. Evarkiou has a dual citizenship in the U.S. and in Greece and speaks the foreign language fluently.
“Greece is totally safe,” said Evarkiou, who recommends bringing a copy of your passport along with the real passport. “We did have one student who thought they had lost their passport so we had to contact the local police officers as well as the U.S. Embassy.”
The biggest advice Evarkiou has for students who wish to study abroad is to be aware of their surroundings.
“You just have to be smart,” said Evarkiou. “Go places in groups, carry your purse or backpack a certain way, and carry the business of the hotel you are staying at.”
The key for both Evarkiou and Fernandez is to be educated, know what you’re getting into. Once you do your research, grab your passport (and a copy of it) and keep your belongings close to you so your study abroad trip can be a transformative and an exciting experience.