Maria del Pilar Murguia, Student Services Manager of John Cabot University, has worked with study abroad students in Rome, Italy for 8 years. In that time she has seen students have the best and worst experiences because they did not take safety precautions.
College Lifestyles: Studying abroad is such an exciting and overwhelming experience. What do you tell students when they first arrive in Rome?
Pilar Murguia: I understand the thrill of being in a new place but remind students to remember that the safety rules they abide by at home still apply abroad. In the hustle and bustle of arriving in new place, it is extremely easy to forget the small things we learned at home. These small things could be the key to whether we have a great or terrible time abroad. I always advise co-eds to go out in groups, tell your friends where you are going, and help each other out.
CL: Regarding holiday safety abroad, how do you think co-eds should prepare for Halloween out in a foreign city?
Pilar: Research is so important. Researching the culture and customs of the country you are in and knowing what kind of costumes are classy and appropriate will make your Halloween abroad safe and incident free.
CL: What other holiday safety tips do you find yourself having to give students when the holidays come around?
Pilar: During festivals and holidays you will most likely be surrounded by many people in places where sounds are amplified and things seem chaotic. In these instances, it is easy to lose your friends in crowds. In such cases agree on exit options with your friends ahead of time.
CL: Getting stranded in a place where you don’t speak the language, losing your friends, or having an emergency situation all seem like common happenings from study abroad semesters. What do you consider to be the essentials to have when going out abroad in order to avoid such occurrences?
Pilar: Keep cash, a form of ID, a charged phone with emergency numbers saved, and some of these first aid items with you. Keeping these few things on your person not just when you’re out, but all the time will lessen the chances of getting stranded, lost, or hurt.
CL: You emphasize not forgetting the “going out rules” we have at home once we are abroad. Can you give us more examples of these please?
Pilar: When you go out at home you have a designated driver. Keep this principle. Even if you don’t drive abroad and plan to take a cab home, always have one sober friend who can keep an eye on the others. Go to the bathroom in pairs and know your limits because just like at home, there are consequences for getting out of control.
Pilar leaves co-eds with one last thought, “Studying abroad shows that you are adventurous, courageous, and intelligent, so remember how you stay safe at home and stick to it when you are abroad.”