Buenos Aires ranks fourth among the top ten most dangerous large cities in the world, according to Trip Advisor. This doesn’t necessarily scare away NYU students that spend their abroad terms in the South American metropolis, and rightfully so, since a majority of the crimes accounted for are some sort of petty larceny, or as my mother would warily proclaim as I’m about to board my plane back to Manhattan, MUGGINGS.
Johanna Mayer, a Junior at CAS who has just arrived in Buenos Aires for her spring term, described the ways in which NYU prepares their students for the apparently-likely event of having your camera snatched from your hands. “Today [our second day of orientation] they showed us this really ridiculously over-the-top video about how careful we need to be in Buenos Aires, and how common muggings are.While goofy, the videos were, well, informative: “It was obviously a staged video [narrated by a British man who was clearly trying to be John Oliver] but they went through the multiple tactics thieves use here,” she wrote in her email response. “There are several, like the woman, “the Black Widow,” who hangs out in fancy hotel bars and gets invited into tourists’ rooms and then drugs them and steals all their shit.Thievery is apparently highly-organized or sophisticated.” To translate, ladros intelligentes [Editor's Note: That is all I remember from high school Spanish.]
We asked Johanna if she expects to get mugged. “I don’t feel like it’s inevitable that I’ll get mugged, basically because I’m like 85 years old and always keep a hand on my bag and try to be overly super extremely vigilant.” With that being said, Johanna remains realistic: “It’s only day three, though, and I’m sure as I get more comfortable I’ll be more careless.”
Johanna might be right. Photography student Erica Dye studied in Buenos Aires two years ago, and claims to have been “incredibly cautious” while studying, but still had her camera stolen right from her hands, albeit while she was exploring a “neighborhood that is known to be not as wealthy and not as safe as other parts in Buenos Aires.” Erica and Johanna both explained that faculty members of the Buenos Aires abroad program were very explicit that muggings are common in the city.
Meghan O’Connor, an NYU junior, was mugged twice. She described the muggings as “an experience,” compared to theft in other countries where thieves function more subtly. “When my iPhone was stolen, I pulled my phone out of my pocket for a second to check the time and I hadn’t realized that two teenage boys had been following me, so they smacked the back of my hand and ripped it out my palm, then went running.” She also described how in a separate situation, her friend screamed for help when her headphones were ripped from her ears. It’s very common that nobody tries to help. Apparently, the general attitude in Buenos Aires is if you seem foreign (especially American) you’ve simply got it coming.
Some claim that the Buenos Aires program is suffering from increasingly diminishing applicants, but NYU’s Study Abroad offices refute these claims. “It is true that enrollment is down at Buenos Aires… but it doesn’t seem to be related to crime,” said John Beckman, a representative of NYU’s study abroad program. He explained that most abroad sites are seeing a record amount of students, but Buenos Aires is still lower than usual.