The Time I Got Robbed Abroad

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Stephanie survived the first five months without any major incidents while studying abroad in Murcia, Spain. One night, it all changed.

I have never lived in a big city, or a small city for that matter. My life experience is limited to small rural towns, being a regular at the local ice cream shop and having the check-out woman at Wal-Mart ask me how my Shakespeare exam went. So living in Murcia was a humbling experience in the ways of self-reliance, resourcefulness and self-awareness. Of course everyone’s heard the same cautionary bits of advice from parents and adults: “Don’t put your drink down”, “Only carry as much money that you need, nothing more”, “Always keep your bag on your person”. In extreme cases like my parents, some may suggest you get an ever fashionable fanny-pack.

To my own credit, I survived the first five months without any major incidents or catastrophic accidents. There was a small ankle injury involving me trying to walk in heeled boots through the unintended cobble-stone streets, but aside from that accident free. I made my own list of precautionary rules, especially when going out for a night. 1. Never put your drink down (even if that means doing the finger point with one hand all night) 2. Keep your bag on your shoulder at all times 3. bla bla. For five months, these rules were absolutely foolproof, until unfortunately, one night they weren’t.

international student voice stephanie vinal  I was back in Murcia after going home for Christmas and traveling around Europe for ten days, so I was ready to be back in my home away from home. After almost half a year in the city I developed a definite sense of security and complacency to my own avail. It was the first night we all went out to the local international bar, and I was elated to be back with my friends and my Murcian haunts. As I’m holding my drink, doing the finger point, and keeping my bag on my shoulder, unbeknownst to me, someone was hatching a nefarious plan to rid me of my wallet. Maybe I was too comfortable at good ole’ Badulake after being at this same place on a regular basis, or perhaps I suffer from a terminal case of bad luck. Regardless of the reason, someone reached into my bag and took my wallet. After I realized it was gone I did the sensible thing anyone would do- told my roommate, we started walking home and I cried my eyes out uncontrollably. She was kind enough to buy me a consolation kebab and listen to me rant about how there’s no decency left in the world.

Once we were home I mustered some self-control and skyped my parents to tell them the tragedy that occurred, to cancel all credit cards and ask for advice on what to do next. Then I filed a report with the local police, which turned out to be a bright side to the whole fiasco considering every policeman in Murcia could be on the cover of GQ. After I had done everything within my power, I bid a somber farewell to my wallet and it’s precious contents and tried to learn from the incident. Turns out becoming acclimated to a routine or a few regular bars and restaurants doesn’t lend to greater security, in contrast, it becomes a detriment. After my time in the city I somehow rationalized I had safely escaped the window of vulnerability, which is clearly never the case. From now on, I’ll be more conscientious, especially in the places I feel most comfortable. In addition, I’ll be keeping one hand on my wallet at all times, like an overprotective mama bear coddling her cub.

international student voice stephanie vinalStephanie Vinal is a junior at Roanoke College studying abroad in Spain. Read her past blog posts and keep reading as her study abroad adventure continues!

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