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By Erran Owenby, Lenoir-Rhyne University

Hola! My name is Erran Owenby. I attend the Barcelona School for International Studies (SIS) and my major is Graphic Design. I have been living in Barcelona for two months now and I have had one of the best experiences of my life. Along with all the excitement, there have been many challenges to studying abroad. One challenge that is specific to Barcelona is pickpocketing and I have been a victim of pickpocketing along with a few of my friends, so I am here to talk about my experiences and a few tips for how to avoid getting pickpocketed, how to handle it, and what to do.

First, I want to say that Barcelona is a very safe city to live in and I feel extremely safe walking around alone if I must. The people here are extremely welcoming and know that a lot of tourists come to Barcelona. The bad news is, pick-pocketers know that as well, and may target tourists. When I was pickpocketed, I had gone to hang out with some friends near the beach for the night. I had taken my phone out to take a picture of my friends and then I put my phone back into my purse, and we went inside a big crowd of people. After about thirty minutes, I look down and my purse was slightly unzipped, and my phone was missing. I immediately logged into “find my iPhone” and it said that my phone was offline, and it could not be located.

Pick-pocketers in Spain are professionals at what they do and they will steal your stuff without you ever realizing it. I assume they stole my phone and took out the sim card immediately so it could not be located. I was able to get a new phone soon after this incident, and the good thing is that the experience made me much more aware of my surroundings.

My roommate also got pickpocketed without knowing. One night, she was traveling on the metro when coming back from the airport and she was on the escalator. All of a sudden, the escalator stopped for a second and this man behind her said that he could hold her luggage for her. My friend insisted that she could do it herself and she kept all her attention on the man and her luggage. When she got back to the apartment, she realized that her purse was open and about 100 euros was missing. She thinks that there was another group of guys behind her that got into her bag without her knowing, all while the one guy distracted her by asking about her luggage.

Although my friend and I didn’t notice that we were being pick pocketed in the moment, another friend of mine was fully aware. One day, she was walking down the street with her phone in her hand and a guy on a bicycle rode by, stole her phone right out of her hand, and kept going. She filed an incident report with the police, but the phone was never found.

Although pickpocketing is the only real danger that I have encountered while in Barcelona, it does happen, and it is one of the challenges that can occur while studying abroad. I have learned from getting pickpocketed and hearing stories of my friends as well, so I have a few tips.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid being pickpocketed in Barcelona:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings
    Be aware of everyone around you, not just the person who you think may be pickpocketing you. Oftentimes, they are the ones causing the distraction.
  2. Be vigilant in big crowds of people
    Often, pick-pocketers work in crowds to avoid being seen, so watch your things in big crowds of people such as in the metro, the nightclubs, or in busy streets.
  3. Always keep an eye, or a hand, on your belongings
    Knowing where your belongings are at all times helps you keep track of them. The second you take your eyes or your hands away from your items, they may be gone. Never leave items of value unattended.
  4. Know that being intoxicated will make you a bigger target
    You are studying abroad and having fun, but if you are intoxicated, it will raise your chances of getting pickpocketed, because your guard is down. Make sure that you always keep one hand on your things no matter how comfortable you feel.

If you are pickpocketed, stay calm and know that you can still have an amazing experience in Barcelona. Also, make sure that you have not just misplaced your things. There are many tips regarding what to do if you are pickpocketed on Barcelona SAE’s Online Student Guide, such as filing a police report within three days and checking your home insurance to see if you are covered.

If you do get pickpocketed, know that you are not alone because these things happen to locals too, not just tourists. Barcelona is a beautiful city and a great place to study abroad. Getting pickpocketed is just one of the risks and challenges that comes with studying abroad, but in the end, I have learned from it and I would risk my chances again to have this life changing experience of studying abroad in Barcelona, the place that I now call home.

Erran Owenby

Erran is a Graphic Design major from Lenoir-Rhyne University, and studied abroad at SIS during Spring 2020.