Government wants spring break travelers to be alert

The U.S. State Department recently released a statement cautioning students about traveling abroad during spring break, but many USC students said they are still planning to head to popular vacation spots such as Cabo, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

“I’m not worried about any type of threats and I’m really excited about going to Mexico,” said Victoria Willingham, a sophomore majoring in psychology and Spanish.

The State Department reported that each year U.S. citizens have been badly injured or killed in accidents, falls and other mishaps while traveling abroad. Many of these incidents have been related to alcohol and drug use.

Other spring break vacationers have been sexually assaulted or robbed because, according to the State Department, they found themselves in unfamiliar locales and were incapable of protecting themselves.

More than 2,500 U.S. citizens are arrested while abroad every year. Nearly half of the travelers arrested each year were for narcotics charges that include having very small amounts of illegal substances in their possession.

The State Department issued the advisory on spring breaks to raise students’ awareness. It noted, however, that the majority of students will have safe and enjoyable adventures.

Juan Espinoza, a junior majoring in communication and international relations, said he believes most students can stay out of trouble while in Mexico.

“Mexico is safe. Most of the violence is connected to drug cartels,” Espinoza said. “So if students aren’t engaged in those activities they will be fine.”

Elizabeth Chau, a sophomore majoring in international relations, said she does not plan to travel outside of the country during spring break because she is concerned for her safety.

“The risk is too great,” Chau said. “You have no idea what could happen to you right now with everything going on.”

Carol Wise, a professor of international relations, said students should be more wary of traveling to Mexico’s border states.

“I feel safe in [Mexico]. I just wouldn’t go to the border states,” Wise said. “I feel as safe there as in South Central Los Angeles.”

To keep safe, the State Department urged all U.S. citizens traveling, studying or residing abroad to sign up online for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. STEP makes it possible for the State Department to contact the student traveler in the case of a family emergency in the United States or because of a crisis in a foreign country.

Devin Carey, a sophomore majoring in international relations, said she believes the STEP program could be more helpful for students traveling in small numbers.

“If I were going to Mexico with a small group of people I would sign up [for STEP], but I’m going with a lot of people so I think I’ll be relatively safe without it,” Carey said.