Students Abroad

Security Beyond Borders

   Advice for those who go on study-abroad programs

Points to consider if you are looking into a study-abroad program:

• Make sure the sponsor has experience offering programs for U.S. students in the country and city where you will go.

• Ask for details on past incidents, including crime, illness and accidents, and how the provider has corrected potential problems.

• Find out how host families and other housing options are screened and whether you can move if a problem develops. Check for safety devices such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.

• Ask about health and safety standards applied to providers of transportation, tours and cultural programs.

• Find out who on site and in the USA is responsible for safety, health and security, and what procedures are in place for emergencies.

• Be clear on what is covered when you sign a release form. Know where to turn for help if you feel your safety or health is being compromised.

• Ask whether the study-abroad program conforms to standards on health and safety established by NAFSA: Association of International Educators and the Forum on Education Abroad.

• Be absolutely sure about what insurance does or does not cover. Find out what 24-hour emergency assistance is available if you need help while abroad.

Sources: Robert Aalberts, professor, University of Nevada-Las Vegas; Gary Rhodes, director, Center for Global Education, Loyola Marymount University-Los Angeles; Alea Cot, assistant vice chancellor for international programs, University of New Orleans; USA TODAY research

No agency keeps track on a national level of health, safety or security incidents affecting college students studying abroad. But a few statistics are available:2,364: Number of deaths to healthy Americans abroad from 2004-06, according to State Department data.

31: Percentage of those deaths related to traffic accidents, the No. 1 cause, according to an analysis by the non-profit Make Roads Safe.

89: Number of incidents reported by 2,161 Michigan State University students last summer. Examples: missed flights, lost passports, hospitalization for excessive alcohol consumption, flare-up of existing health condition.

11.1: Percentage of 917 New Mexico State University students who said they experienced a serious safety or health incident while studying abroad between 2002 and 2008. Examples: a sprained ankle while bungee jumping in Costa Rica, dehydration in Brazil, daily diarrhea in Morocco.

596: Number of safety incidents reported by 477 study-abroad students from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., from 1999 to 2005.

229: Number of those safety incidents involving harrassment.

2.3: Number of sexual assaults reported in 2006 per 100 female Peace Corps volunteers serving a full year.

By Mary Beth Marklein


These websites are aimed at helping college students minimize risks while abroad:The Center for Global Education offers details for students planning to study abroad, including a checklist for finding the right program for you.

The Forum on Education Abroad, founded in 2001, has developed standards of good practices. The site content is aimed at study-abroad providers but may also help students and families.

A State Department site contains advice on travel documents, embassy resources, and health and emergency information.

Several groups offer international ID cards that identify the carrier as a student and include additional insurance coverage such as emergency medical evacuation.;

By Nicholas Persac, Mary Beth Marklein


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