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Avoid the dangers of studying abroad
Boulder, CO - With record high numbers of students heading abroad each year, CU officials are encouraging students to take extra precautions overseas to stay safe.
"Health and safety are our top priorities," said Mary Dando, Director of the Office of International Education. "In addition to providing great academic experiences, we want to make sure that students remain safe and come home safe."
Hundreds of CU students study abroad each year. To protect students while abroad, the Office of International Education (OIE) at CU located in the Center for Community works to prepare students before they leave. The OIE hosts a mandatory orientation for all study abroad students prior to their semester or year in another country. Orientation covers all of the basics from housing to packing, health, cultural differences, and safety.
"What we have students do first of all is to attend our general orientation and to read the handbook that we give to students where we are explaining basic safety guidelines," Dando said.
Students also have a program-specific orientation onsite when they arrive in their host country. Jacki O'Connor, a CU senior who studied in Barcelona last semester, said that her orientation helped her acclimate to her new home abroad.
"My study abroad group had an orientation at CU before we even left, and then on the first day when we all got together, I went to Barcelona, Spain, we had an orientation and one of the topics that was heavily covered was safety," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said that she rarely felt unsafe while abroad in Barcelona but awareness was key.
"I think what's important too is to talk to a local if you can about safety" O'Connor said. "I stayed with a host family when I was in Barcelona so I asked my host mom what was safe, what was maybe not a good idea or if there were areas I should avoid."
While safety is generally not a problem for students studying abroad, there have been some close calls. Four CU students studying in Cairo, Egypt were immediately evacuated because of the 2011 Arab Spring. There were also four students who were evacuated from New Zealand in the spring after the hurricane
and another thirty-three students evacuated from Japan due to an earthquake and tsunami.
"We worked very closely with them (the students affected) and our insurance company to make sure that the students were not exposed to anything that would put them in harm's way," Dando said.
For CU students thinking about applying to the study abroad program, remember that caution is the key for staying safe.