Thursday, March 22, 2012

Studying abroad requires caution

Students are ‘never 100 percent alone’ when studying abroad, short-term study away manager says.

By Amanda Brasgalla, Guest Writer

Pacific Lutheran students interested in traveling abroad in the 2012-2013 school year look forward to worldly experiences and adventure. Yet, when studying away, they should also consider their safety.

Three United States college students died during study away programs in 2011. In March 2011, San Diego State University student Austin Bice died while studying business in Madrid. After leaving a club, he disappeared and was found in a Manzaneres River in Spain. According to a CBS report, no foul play was suspected, but authorities state alcohol was involved.

Six months later, University of Iowa student Thomas Plotkin fell from a ridge while studying away in India. According to a Huffington Post article, Plotkin went missing in September in Lucknow, India after twisting his ankle and falling into the Gori River. His body has yet to be found.

Alexander J. Reinis, a student at Trinity University in Texas, died while studying in London in November 2011 due to bacterial meningitis, according to the San Antonio Express News.

These incidents are unusual, but thinking of safety while on a trip helps students maintain their once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“There are so many great programs, but the best thing for a student studying abroad is to watch for everything and use common sense,” Wang Center short-term study away manager Megan Grover said.

Grover assists faculty members in planning study away programs. She has encountered several incidents in programs over the years, but never any as serious as death. Grover said the most common problems occur with traffic accidents and prescription medications.

“Students should plan ahead and be responsible for their needs,” Grover said. “But students should know that they are never 100 percent alone.”

On all PLU trips, faculty members join students and remain as resources in times of need. If traveling on a PLU program, the Wang Center sets up other contacts to watch out for students.

Junior Hayley Rea knows this advice well. While studying away for fall semester 2011 in France, Rea recalls being followed by a strange man after leaving the Metro. Rea had no problem conversing in French, but thought it best to call for help.

“I called my host mom, and she yelled at him to go away,” Rea said. “It’s better to travel in pairs.”

Rea’s other advice for students was to “know where you’re going before leaving and be conscious of your surroundings.”

Sophomore Ally Stillwell said she will take this advice into consideration when she studies away in the future.

“I would take the precaution as much here as there,” Stillwell said.

Hoping to study in Namibia or Germany, Stillwell will research the area beforehand to prepare for any situations. She said she does not want to risk missing fun experiences abroad because of issues over safety.

In case of emergencies, the Wang Center provides resources for students in difficult situations.

For all PLU students traveling abroad, the Wang Center sets up students with EIIA insurance. The EIIA program is a comprehensive insurance that protects and reimburses students in almost any emergency. Along with coverage, its services include translation services, coordinating payments and paperwork.

“The Wang Center’s top priority is student/faculty safety,” Grover said.