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Blog From Abroad: Tips for Fun & Safety

Jacob and Brandon at an FC Barcelona game

Tech Ambassadors Jacob and Brandon are reporting in from Spain again, sharing the tech tips they've learned while studying, socializing, and exploring in Barcelona. This month, Brandon shares his tips for staying safe physically and digitally while living and visiting a new country. Meanwhile, Jacob shares something just as important — the apps you'll need to explore the culinary wonders of another country!

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Staying Safe Overseas

Hi everyone, it's Brandon, one of your Tech Ambassadors abroad! Barcelona’s popular tourist attractions, like La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter, and Sagrada Familia, showcase the city's stunning architecture and cultural heritage. Unfortunately, they are also hotspots for pickpockets and scammers for unsuspecting tourists. When you're anywhere unfamiliar, you need to be always mindful of your safety.

Beyond common advice (like keeping your devices locked when not in use, never leaving your belongings unattended, and watching out for commotions and diversions as pickpockets often work in pairs), include these technology resources as part of your trip prep to keep your stuff and yourself safe!

Use Tech to Know Where You and Your Belongings Are:

  • Digital Wallets:
    Apps like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are recommended instead of carrying lots of cash and credit cards.
  • Digital Trackers:
    I suggest placing an AirTag or a similar tracker in your wallet, luggage, and backpack. If your wallet gets stolen (or if you forget it somewhere along your travels), it’ll send a notification to your phone, and you'll be able to locate it or play a sound to find it.
  • Location Tracking:
    When traveling in a group, it is a great idea to share your location with each other. Utilize apps like Life360 and Apple’s Find My to make sure everyone is safe. 
  • Offline Maps:
    Google Maps has a great feature where you can download an area of Google Maps to save if you are ever stranded and offline.

Know How to Get Help:

  • Look Up the Emergency Numbers:
    It is very important to be aware of local emergency numbers and the nearest embassy or consulate in case of an emergency. Before you travel, ensure that these numbers are saved on your phone as a contact and in an online location.
  • Learn Some Basic Safety Phrases:
    If you’re traveling someplace where English isn’t spoken, I recommend learning some basic phrases in the local language to ask for help in an emergency. These include, “Help me,” “I need a hospital,” or “Call the police,” along with “I only speak English.” In addition, download a translation app so you can explain your circumstances.

Travel Safely:

  • Use Safe Luggage:
    I recommend using luggage with tamper-resistant features, such as TSA-approved locks, slash resistant materials, and anti-theft backpacks that offer RFID protection for passports and credit cards.
  • Portable Chargers:
    Invest in a portable charger or power bank to ensure devices are always charged in case of an emergency.
  • Digital Document Backups:
    Make digital copies of important documents (passport, visa, travel insurance) that are accessible from a secure cloud storage, like a Personal Vault in OneDrive. You can then scan documents and save them straight to your vault with the OneDrive mobile app (see how here) or with apps like Adobe Scan. 

Stay safe and make the most of your travels with these tips!

-- By Brandon Bowman, Pitt IT International Tech Ambassador

My Favorite Apps for Food & Fun in Barcelona

Hey Pitt. It’s Tech Ambassador Jacob here, saying hi from Barcelona. The first six weeks of my time studying abroad in Spain have been packed full of new culinary experiences: traveling to new places, cooking new foods, and trying new restaurants. With so much seeming to go on in such a short time, technology that helps me experience more in a day is extremely important. So far this semester, I have been introduced to several apps that have helped me get the most out of my study abroad experience. So here is my mini guide on the apps that a foodie studying abroad has to have!

Beli – Making Restaurant Reviews Addictive

Do you like Iberian ham, croquettes, and Manchego? Or maybe you are more of a seafood person and want to try tuna tataki and garlic butter prawns? Then Spain is for you! However, once you arrive in Barcelona and begin sampling the rich diversity of local Catalan and Spanish dishes, you are going to need a way to keep track of all the restaurants you visited and what you did and didn’t like.

A few weeks ago, a friend introduced me to a food review app that takes communication and recommendations to a new level: Beli. What makes Beli unique is its ranking feature. When you visit a new restaurant and add it into your list, the app asks you if you liked the restaurant, didn’t care for it, or thought it was just fine. Beli will then match this new addition against all of the other places you have visited in the past. This not only allows you to recall your culinary adventures and debate what you liked and disliked about each place, but it also allows the app to provide a more personalized and accurate score automatically based on your experience. (My current top restaurant, with a score of 10.0/10.0 is La Rita, a quiet Catalan restaurant in the Eixample neighborhood.) Unlike a traditional review app like Yelp, Beli also incorporates social features that allow you to connect with friends and visit restaurants “together” by sharing and commenting on your friends’ preferences and experiences at the same places.

Bolt – Taxis in Europe

After a few nights of eating out, you (and your wallet) might want a more relaxed night at home. Yet when opening your fridge, you encounter a roadblock: it’s empty. You decide to head to the nearest supermarket and load up on fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, pasta, and whatever else your heart and hungry stomach desires. Upon leaving the market holding several big shopping bags of food, walking or waiting for the bus or metro don't feel like great options. What are you to do? In walks the next star of the show: Bolt.

While Europe is often lauded for its great public transport system (and rightfully so), sometimes you just need a car or a van. While Uber is fantastic in the U.S. and much of Europe, Bolt can be even more helpful while abroad. Like Uber, Bolt is a drive share app that also offers other delivery services. It also has a convenient local taxi-hailing option, which is often cheaper and quicker than using a private driver. Bolt has been great so far, especially in cities that do not use Uber.

Glovo – Food Delivery in a Different Style

After a few weeks of eating out or cooking at home, your Beli page has blown up with people from all over the city seeking your stellar restaurant recommendations and you have used up all your brava sauce and ground beef. But let’s be honest, sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to go out or cook a meal from scratch. You decide to take a break and decide that tonight will be the night you just order delivery.

While DoorDash and UberEATS might be the main options at home, in Barcelona the main food delivery app is Glovo. Glovo has been super helpful and easy to use. Plus, there is just something fun about seeing your food zoom toward you on an electric bike, instead of in a sedan (see my lastest video).

¡Buen provecho!

Whether I need to catch a ride to and from the store to get groceries, decide to head out to one of the many great restaurants, or order in to enjoy a chef-prepared meal from my couch, Beli, Glovo, and Bolt are all the apps I need for all my culinary adventures in Barcelona!

-- By Jacob Sosinsky, Pitt IT International Tech Ambassador