Posted by  on November 29, 2011 in Crazy Times AbroadNo comments

“The United States plants nearly 300,000 diplomatic land mines around the world each year and the number is increasing. Officially they are known as SACS: Study abroad college students. Most of them are well-behaved and unlikely to trigger international events or fuel diplomatic firestorms. They learn a few things about the world, have a good time and come home appreciating America more than when they left. But not all. Surrounded by the right amount of political fatwood or influenced by high levels of Ouzo or bison grass Vodka, some study abroad students detonate.” 

Diplomatic land mines #ouch. Why do American study abroad students get such a bad rep? Wasn’t it just a week ago that Hillary Clinton said more American students should study abroad? Why is it that Americans studying overseas are seen as immature and wild when foreign students studying in the U.S. are seen as studious? Is there something to these stereotypes?

The following students learned their lesson about getting into trouble on study abroad.

Lesson 1- Do Not Join Those Throwing Firebombs At Authorities During An Egyptian Protest.

Three American students studying abroad in Egypt were arrested last Sunday for allegedly throwing firebombs during a protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. “We were in a near-fetal position with our hand handcuffed behind our back, and with our shirts still over our heads so we couldn’t see even in the dark, and they said if we moved, we would get shot…they would shoot us.” The Drexel, Indiana, and Georgetown University students admitted it was probably naive to go to an area where protesters and politce were battling it out but they wanted to watch Egypt’s struggle for political freedom firsthand.“It’s about a passion for democracy and liberty and values that I think Americans can stand for too,” Derrick said. 

Lesson learned, don’t get caught up in the excitement of the protest. Stay out of it and away from it.

Lesson 2- Do Not Mupload Any Pics Of Protesters In Syria

Tik Root of Middlebury College was studying abroad in Syria when he took out his Blackberry to snap some pics of protestors in the Old City of Damascus. Two minutes later he found himself facedown in the backseat of a surburban, accused of being a spy.  Root was driven to a  nearby prison where he was kept in a tiny windowless cell for 15 days. Only realizing he could request water on the third day, Root was dehydrated, poorly fed, and never allowed to shower. The worst part he said, was hearing the screams.

I was not beaten, but I would say at least 75 percent of those in the prison were,’’ he said. –

Definitely a reminder to keep your iphone to yourself and again, stay away from the protests.

Lesson 3-  Do Not Carry Drugs In Russia.

John Tobin, another Middlebury College graduate, was studying in Russia on a Fulbright Scholarship when he was arrested outside a Russian nightclub and found in possesion of a matchbox containing marijuana. He ultimately served 6 months in prison for the crime.

Lesson learned, don’t mess with drugs on study abroad. The rules and the punishments can be totally different from the U.S. Save your blazing for when you’re back in the States or pay.

Lesson 4- Do Not Hang Around Seedy Guys In Italy

We all know this face. Amanda Knox was jailed in 2007 as a suspect in the murder of her study abroad roommate. She was released from Italian jail four years later.

Lesson 5- Do Not Use An Ancient Artifact As A Photo Prop In Greece

Canadian teen Madeleine Gierc got herself in major trouble when she picked up a piece of marble to pose for a photograph in front of the Parthenon. She was arrested and charged with illegal possession of antiquities which carries the maximum of 10 years in prison. She was released after two nights in Athenian jail.

“I was thinking I would put the rock back where it was and it would all be dropped … They said it was marble but it was a yellow color and dirty and dusty and just looked like a rock,” said Gierc, who said she was treated well in custody.