Blending in Abroad

Studying abroad is one of the many opportunities that Penn State students are fortunate enough to have. It’s an experience that you’ll have with you for the rest of your life, and not to mention the amount of Instagramable moments that will present themselves. However, while traveling abroad is fun and exciting, it’s important for tourists to remember that they are in a foreign country.

Valley spoke with Penn State Italian lecturer Dr. Johanna Rossi Wagner to find out a few simple measures that students can take while traveling. She says that the most important way for students to avoid risk abroad is to master the art of blending in.

“If you stick out like a sore thumb, if you’re screaming that you’re American then people know that and you are more vulnerable,” says Rossi Wagner.

Penn State students are always proud to wear their school name, but Rossi Wagner advises students to avoid wearing sporty clothes because Europeans tend not to wear athletic clothing, unless they are going to the gym. Travelers should take note of the trends and styles in the countries that they are in.

“Pack essentials at the beginning. Just things you might need. Jeans, shirts very monochrome clothing, nothing flashy with names on it,” says Rossi Wagner. “And when you get there, observe. What are the people wearing? What kinds of things are in style? Then based on what you see, that’s the time to go buy something.”

Choosing the right to clothes to wear when traveling is not the only thing that students can do to protect themselves. Learning the laws of the country you are staying in is so important because breaking the law in another country is a very big deal. Rossi Wagner encourages students to look up information about the culture that you are going to on the state department website.

Familiarizing yourself with the local laws and culture are great starting points for students traveling abroad. Not drawing attention is crucial, but sometimes the smallest of gestures can be misinterpreted in another country.

“Americans are really friendly and you don’t want to smile unless you actually really want to engage in a conversation,” says Rossi Wagner.

Knowing where the local police station is in your host city or town is another way for students to further ensure their safety.

Whether you are studying abroad or traveling for leisure, taking steps to protect yourself from potential danger can make a difference. Traveling is meant to be fun, but it can’t be done without knowledge and attentiveness.