JIYOUNG SIM- Study abroad is exciting because you are away from things you are used to. But at the same time, this means that you are more likely to be exposed to crimes. Spain is relatively safer than other European countries and Madrid is the second safest city in Europe after Copenhagen so there is not too much possibility of you being involved in a serious crime. But at the same time, the fact that you are still more likely to be the target of a crime than the local people does not change.
The most commonly experienced crime among students is pick-pocketing. Even if you think you are totally used to your life here and you think you blend into the Spaniards, the pick-pockets are professionals. They know who are foreigners. It is very important to be careful at all times. Especially at places with a lot of tourists or crowded areas like Sol or metro, you have to be extremely careful. Always keep your wallet somewhere deep inside your bag and do not carry anything valuable in your pocket.
I personally had some painful experiences with pick-pockets in Madrid. In Summer 2013, I stayed in Madrid for a month and a half. On the very first day of my arrival in Madrid, I got my wallet pick-pocketed at Sol. That day I lost 300 euros and all my credit cards and IDs. Fortunately, back then I had a traveler’s insurance and the insurance covered everything but I had to go to the police office and write a report, which took me almost three hours. If you are staying for a long time, it can be a good idea to have a traveler’s insurance in case you lose something valuable. You may think it will not happen to you but believe me, it can happen to anyone.
Since I had this painful experience from two years ago, I thought I was being very careful and would never get anything stolen again until my phone was stolen this time. I was on my way to work and I knew that someone took my phone from my pocket in the metro but couldn’t figure out who took it. Often times the pick-pockets work in a team of 2 or 3 so once you get something stolen it’s very hard to tell who took it even if you realize it right away. Fortunately, my phone was pretty old and I wanted to change it before I left for Spain but I didn’t change it in case of losing it or getting it stolen (thank god!). I doubted that anyone would want that phone but surprisingly, someone did steal my three-year-old phone. I told my boss (she is American) about what happened and she told me she got her stuff stolen seven times the first year she got here.
You might think that I was not paying enough attention and it is kind of embarrassing to tell everyone that I have been pick-pocketed twice but I am still writing about this because this can happen to anyone and I do not want you to be the next victim. It is great to explore much and have fun but at the same time make sure you are being careful at all times to make your experience abroad better!