Amanda Knox, the American student who studied abroad in Perugia, Italy, is free from her jail cell and back in her hometown of Seattle, Wash.
In 2009, the Italian courts convicted Knox for murdering and sexually assaulting her British roommate Meredith Kercher, also a student studying abroad. After four years in prison and numerous appeals, Knox has been acquitted of both charges and allowed to return to the United States.
Americans need to understand that if you travel to another country, any legal mishaps are not held to the same standards of the United States judicial system.
Now, whether or not she really murdered Kercher is an everlasting argument and will continue to run rampant throughout the world. I’m not going to argue something that will never have an honest answer. To be clear, I don’t believe she murdered Kercher because there’s no evidence, but like I said it’s not worth arguing about.
However Knox, as an American in an Italian city, should have been more responsible; which includes not smoking marijuana, which is illegal to use, traffic, or buy in Italy. According to Dr. Ellen Arden-Ogle, the director of the Los Rios Study Abroad Program, almost half of all students studying abroad who find themselves in legal trouble are involved in cases that are drug related, usually marijuana.
Many countries consider people guilty until proven innocent, and according to Arden-Ogle, an American student may not even get a trial. Basically, if you commit a crime in another country, don’t expect to get a lawyer right away or get bailed out by one of your family members. In most countries, the option of being bailed out is not there; and once again, it is not the judicial system Americans have become accustom to.
Remember, you’re not O.J. Simpson and you won’t be prosecuted by our legal system, or not prosecuted in that case. Only in America will you be set free with a ridiculous amount of evidence against you, and in Knox’s case, it may take no evidence and four years of your life in another country.
According to the Open Doors 2010 data, 260,327 Americans studied abroad between 2008 and 2009, with 30 percent of those students traveling to Italy. Of that number, 26,715 were students from California alone. American River College offers study abroad programs in Italy and London.
It seems that as the numbers grow, responsibility diminishes, especially because as Americans we have a completely different view of the world. We see the world with freedoms to enjoy and rights to be given, rainbows and butterflies if you will; something that many other countries could only dream of.
With that said, everyone that goes outside of our country’s borders should know what they’re getting themselves into. Every student needs to know and fully understand the country and its legal system before they enter it. Do research about the country and always know the phone number and address of the closest American Embassy.
It wasn’t a trial of the guilty and innocent, rather it became a trial of two countries. This was increasingly evident due to the massive difference between the Italian and American media coverage and opinions. What we should be taking away from this incident is not which country is right or wrong or whether Knox murdered Kercher or not, but to act as a responsible guest in another country.
Don’t be the ignorant, stupid, American stereotype. Be the responsible student and respect another country as you would want others to respect yours. I’m not saying don’t travel, what I am saying is be smart about it or you may land yourself in a whole heap of trouble.