Earlier this month, a lone lorry driver took the lives of 84 people on Bastille Day in Paris, France, which celebrates the unification of the French people and the Storming of Bastille that kick started the French Revolution. Only a few weeks earlier, over 200 people were killed in Baghdad, Iraq in a suicide bombing in a marketplace café during the last days of the holy month of Ramadan.
To some, going overseas appears to be out of the question, especially when almost every other day there is a new, grim account of what has happened overseas. For students who want to go abroad to get the most out of their time at Auburn or simply because they have to in order to graduate, the question lingers: Should I still study abroad?
The answer is yes, according to Deborah Weiss, director of Auburn Abroad and Exchange Programs in the Office of International Programs, you are in good hands with appropriate preparation.
Auburn Study Abroad programs are approved after a formal submission process in which each destination is checked to see if a U.S. Department of State Travel Alert or Travel Warning is in place. Faculty are familiar with the site, have information on academics and logistic plans, a dean approval and a destination review. Each faculty member must complete safety training and train with guidelines for health and safety.
According to Weiss, the AU Travel Policy prohibits running programs in travel warning countries.
Auburn students are required to attend pre-departure sessions in the fall (for spring abroad) or spring semester (for summer and fall abroad) before their trip. Even if the student is unable to attend the sessions, students are required to review materials and check them off in their online application.
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Reminder emails are sent weekly until either the materials are read or the presentation has been attended. The goal of these presentations are to prepare students for their journey to experience another culture, life and education and to understand buddy systems and communicating with faculty leaders.
No student will go oblivious or unaware of cultural differences when heading overseas.
Certain presentations include proper greeting, what places to go or not to go and how to be a smart traveler. Once abroad, an orientation is conducted showing the students around their new living environment.
Along with Auburn University’s study abroad application process, students are encouraged to also enroll in the U.S Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. The program also monitors US citizens traveling abroad in areas overseen by U.S. Embassies. The program sends alerts to members in case of emergency and also has an option that allows families to keep track of ongoing events overseas as well.
Participating in study abroad programs require extensive briefing and paperwork, and it's not as simple as picking up a suitcase and jumping on the next plane. According to Weiss, the University takes extensive measures to ensure students are well taken care of and protected abroad.
The network ranges from faculty to insurance companies to government offices. The Office of International Programs is partnered with Auburn University's emergency abroad response team. The team has public safety, risk management, student services, medical, wellness, communications and marketing staff.
Students are prompted to keep their Travel Insurance ID card with them at all times, containing important contact information to the response team. The University is also part of the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Department of state. Twice a day, seven days a week, study abroad services receives reports from the council on events and incidents that happen in foreign countries, maintaining awareness of what is happening across the ocean.
The University has a wide-ranging insurance company that covers general illness and even emergency evacuations by plane. The insurance company, International Emergency Travel Insurance (United Health Care Global or UHG) has two banks of phones in the case that parents are unable to reach their students or faculty or in the possibility that an assistance case needs to be made. Furthermore, one Auburn Abroad (AUAB) staff member keeps in their possession a “24/7” phone for emergencies, which connects them with a liaison with Auburn faculty, insurance companies, or security issues.
An example of security would be a student missing class without notice. According to Weiss, if a student is not heard from for more than four hours, a security search for the student will be conducted, even if the “disappearance” was a misunderstanding. Auburn Abroad also pushes students to practice the buddy system and advises against traveling beyond “the Study Abroad Bubble” (such as going to another country for a weekend getaway) all the while encouraging students to immerse themselves in the local culture.
Despite the news of the tragedies happening overseas, universities encourage students to study abroad to learn about other cultures and viewing their academic field in a different light. The U.S Embassies abroad are even taking strides in encouraging more citizens to travel abroad through scholarships like the Gliman, Boren and Fulbright to name a few.
Danger can occur anywhere, it is how prepared, wise and vigilant a person is that lowers risk.
For more information contact the Auburn Abroad office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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