Traveling smart

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Jared Kieschnick, a junior in English, was traveling to Guadalajara with a church group to build and paint houses for underprivileged and elderly people.

While taking a break to eat in a small taco stand, Kieschnick and a friend ran down a dark alley, trying to find a drink of water after having eaten several tacos. A man, armed with a gun, jumped toward the two boys and told them to hand over any money they had.

“My friend gave him his backpack, which was full of souvenirs and some money,” Kieschnick said. “Luckily, all I had was a smushed taco in my hand and a very bad aftertaste in my mouth.”

Although Kieshnick’s friend never got his belongings back, the two were able to walk away from the incident unharmed.

Kieschnick warns vacationing U students to “avoid walking in isolated places alone.”

This summer, more than 400 students are scheduled to fly abroad with the U’s Study Abroad program. Countless others will travel across the county and around the world in search of cultural adventures. Knowing how to stay safe will make any trip a more enjoyable experience, said Sara Demko, assistant director of the Study Abroad program.

Before going overseas, Demko provides a series of orientation courses in which students are taught how to stay safe in foreign countries.

Students should expect to lose about $50 to salespeople who take advantage of tourists by giving the incorrect amount of change and to the difference in currency exchange, Demko said.

“Not to say that everyone loses $50,” she said. “But, if you do plan to lose them, you are not going to be as devastated, so it won’t ruin your trip.”

Demko warns students not to take more than $100 in cash during the day. The rest, she said, should be locked up in the place where they are staying. Students should also carry copies of their IDs, passports, and credit cards to avoid losing the originals.

Pickpockets, by far, are the biggest potential threats to student travelers, she said, calling them “friends of opportunity.”

Hina Yazdani, a senior in behavioral science and health psychology, was a victim of pick-pocketing when her wallet was stolen outside a caf in Paris in the summer of 2001.

Yazdani was traveling with an educational tour group when she noticed her wallet was gone from a purse she was carrying over her shoulder.

“It was funny because we were sitting around, all 18 of us, and no one saw the thief,” Yazdani said. “They are pretty sneaky, I guess.”

Yazdani lost $300, her driver’s license, and ID card. Although her wallet was found two years later, she never obtained it because the French government said the only way she could get it was to go back to France and claim it for herself.

“It taught me a lot, especially what to do in places where there are a lot of people,” Yazdani said. “You really have to be aware of your surroundings.”

Although pick-pocketing is common, Demko said she wants students to treat it as a learning opportunity.

“It’s just part of something you learn,” Demko said. “The more you travel, the more experience you will have.”