Last semester, I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain with New York University. While I had an incredible experience, I also had my camera and passport stolen during my four months in Europe. And, I wasn’t alone – multiple people in my program had valuable items (i.e. phones, money and even computers) stolen during our time abroad.

In writing this, I hope the following tips will help students (and travelers) during their experiences abroad:

Always keep belongings secured – especially while traveling

I cannot stress the importance of never taking your eyes (and hands) off your belongings. When my camera and passport were taken, I was traveling from Madrid to Barcelona with a duffle bag, backpack and camera bag. While I was speaking with a bus station attendant, I set my camera bag down for minutes, forgot I had set in down, and upon returning, realized it had been taken.

Be aware of strangers approaching you

This may sound like common sense, but in major European (and American) cities it’s not uncommon to be approached by individuals trying to sell items (or asking for favors). When my friend Laura’s iPhone was stolen, she was at a café, when a man diverted her attention by showing her a piece of paper. So, when in highly crowded areas, be sure to keep belongings secure and be cognizant of your surroundings.

Travel Responsibility

Be careful about going out late at night, and if possible, travel with another person (or group). Even after living in Europe for almost four months, I still took trips with friends and during the evenings, felt much safer with a group of individuals.

Consider Buying Insurance

In America, I never insured items like my phone and camera. But, if you’re traveling for an extended period, I recommend finding affordable insurance (with a low deductible) that will cover stolen property.

Above all, be smart, be aware, and most crucially, keep personal belongings close at all times.