Friday, 11 May 2012

Expat Excellence featuring Gillian Kemmerer – Part 2

This is the second of Gillian Kemmerer’s three-part series on Expat Explorer. Gillian is the founder of Ready Set Jet - a fantastic resource geared towards Generation Y expats and looks at common concerns of expats under-29 encounter. This week, Gillian shares some top advice for young people to keep safe whilst studying and working abroad.

Top 3 tips to keep safe abroad

Source: Creative Commons/

1. How do you look? 
Image isn’t everything, but it certainly counts for something.  Regardless of whether or not you are consciously aware, foreigners attract attention.  Whether it’s your clothing, language or mannerisms that give you away, be aware that you may be under watch simply for walking through the door.  That being said, what type of behavior do you want to exude?  Expats are often stereotyped as affluent (in particular, to be carriers of large amounts of cash) and unaware of local language, customs and laws.  If you are behaving in a way that suggests you are alone, those stereotypical depictions could invite the wrong type of attention.  Be slightly more aware of your behavior while abroad to ensure that anyone pegging you as naïve (regardless of how much you know of local lifestyle) will not also view you as incapable of self-defense. In the same vein, avoid going out alone.  The larger your group, the less attractive you are to someone who is up to no good.

2. Top-Up Your Phone
Pay-as-you-go cell phones are not common practice until you spend a period of time abroad without a local cell plan.  Many students find themselves struggling with the fact that their texts are limited and their minutes require constant monitoring.  If you are living in a country where topping-up at a local cell phone store or kiosk is common practice, make sure that you top-up your phone before you head out.  You never want to be caught in a situation in which you cannot reach friends, family or the police.

3. Know landmarks, Not just addresses
Suppose you are living in a city such as Moscow where cabs with shady reputations are more prevalent than their legitimate counterparts. Or perhaps you are caught in a situation where there is no transportation to be found on a busy night.  Knowing your street address may not be enough information to navigate home, particularly if you live in a student residence or non-commercial area.  Be aware of the landmarks and major streets that are located within a five-block radius of your home.  When entering a cab, make it a point to write down the license plate number or taxi code, and pay attention to the route.  If you know your landmarks, you’ll be able to determine if you are being taken in the right direction (as opposed to an expensive and unsolicited city tour).  If you are ever in a situation where you must walk—and, as we would tell you abroad or at home, never walk alone—do not rely on someone else for your navigation.  Be personally responsible regarding your surroundings, and carry a pocket map whenever possible.

About the author
Gillian Kemmerer is the founder of Ready Set Jet, a resource geared toward Generation Y expats. She loves to hear from young people living out their dreams abroad on the RSJ Twitter (, and is both an avid compound archer and rabid FC Barcelona fan.

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