EA, state groups keep abroad students safe

By Rebecca Clemons

To make Education Abroad a successful experience for all students, UK’s EA program pays close attention to student safety.

The Oct. 3 travel alert for Americans in Europe that the Department of State issued raised concerns about the safety of students traveling abroad.

Anthony Ogden, director of EA, said the Office of International Affairs has emergency plans and protocols implemented when a travel alert or warning is released.

“We consult with a number of different sources, like the Department of State, on a continual basis,” Ogden said. “We work with a large network of professionals who are constantly monitoring international events.”

Currently, 114 UK students are traveling abroad worldwide, Ogden said, and 63 of them are studying in Europe.

The Office of International Affairs works with other departments and programs, such as the Risk Management Office and third party study abroad provider organizations, many of whom have individual ways for dealing with travel alerts and warnings.

According to its website, the Kentucky Institute for International Studies provides health insurance and security evacuation protection for students. KIIS also offers monetary protection if a trip must be canceled last minute because of terrorist activities.

According to its website, International Studies Abroad stays in close contact with the US Embassy in each country where students are traveling, and it follows guidelines the Department of State sets, especially in times of international crisis.

KIIS and ISA are programs UK students study abroad through, and both were featured at the EA Fair Sept. 22.

In an e-mail sent to all UK students currently traveling abroad in Europe, Ogden stressed that a “travel alert” should not be confused with a “travel warning.”

“While the two may sound similar, they are significantly different in severity,” he wrote.

The alert said US citizens should take precautions and be aware of their surroundings while traveling, but there was no recommendation to abstain from traveling.

“We have an established network of resources,” Ogden said. “We’re constantly monitoring the situation and students shouldn’t feel deterred from studying abroad in Europe or elsewhere.”

He said the EA program stays in frequent touch with its students abroad.

Also in his e-mail to students, Ogden recommended they “make an extra effort to exercise cautious behavior” and avoid crowded tourist spots that Americans frequent.

The State Department does have travel warnings in place for other potential study abroad destinations, such as Mexico and Israel.

Ogden said any student who wants to study in countries where there are travel warnings must appeal to and get approval from a committee that evaluates proposals and the safety issues related to them.

Two programs faculty members will lead are planned for summer 2011 in Mexico, where the State Department issued a travel warning Sept. 10.

The EA offices report that during the 2009-2010 academic year, 589 UK students traveled abroad, and 58.2 percent of them studied in Europe, making it the most popular destination.

The United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France and Australia were the top five most visited study abroad spots in the world by UK students last year.

Every student who studies abroad attends a special orientation that outlines health and safety issues, Ogden said.

More than 150 students are expected to study abroad in the spring 2011 semester.

For more information on study abroad programs, visit (http://abroad.ad.uky.edu/).