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Students, faculty express study abroad concerns
As soldiers fight the war in Iraq, students at Quinnipiac are expressing mixed feelings about joining them overseas. These students are not speaking of fighting in the war; rather they are expressing concerns about the dangers of studying abroad.
In the face of war and the anti-Americanism that is present in various parts of the world, students, parents and professors alike are questioning the safety and security of being abroad.
Quinnipiac offers many study abroad opportunities to its students, including its own program in Ireland. Professor Robert Smart, director of the Ireland program, said he realizes that students and parents are concerned about safety during the crisis in Iraq.
Smart, however, feels that Quinnipiac is properly prepared. The university’s wartime plan, dubbed the “Emergency Policy in Case of War” was first developed following the September 11 attack on America. Since that time the plan has been regularly updated by a committee to ensure student safety while abroad. It was recently posted on the Quinnipiac website and is available for review by anyone in the community.
According to the plan, The U.S. Department of State issues periodic public announcements and warnings at three levels of urgency. The levels contain descriptions for countries that Americans should not travel to or safety issues they should be aware of while abroad, issues closely monitored by officials at Quinnipiac.
Additionally, all of the countries that Quinnipiac has study abroad programs in are located in Western Europe and are not considered to be dangerous at this time. However, Smart points out that a student studying abroad must understand that education abroad always involves risk and no program can provide guaranteed safety.
Smart encourages students and parents to bring concerns to either himself or someone involved in study abroad programs so that the issues can be properly addressed.
Students are also being advised to keep a lower profile, to be aware of their surroundings, to conduct themselves respectfully, to stay away from areas where large groups of Americans tend to congregate and to use basic common sense while abroad.
According to Raymond Foery, director of the summer institute program held in Nice, France, safety has been a priority for the past three years that he’s been running his program, regardless of whether or not a war is taking place.
“Safety makes me nervous every summer, but my hope is that the Quinnipiac community will realize that study abroad is the chance of a lifetime,” said Foery.
This idea that study abroad is such a fantastic adventure is the positive focus Foery and the rest of those involved are continuing to push. At this time Foery is looking for more students to attend the summer program. The institute requires at least ten students and, at this time, only seven Quinnipiac students have paid their deposit and made a commitment to the trip.
Meanwhile, Linda Broker, the dean of Academic Support Services, remains confident and does not feel that the war has threatened the study abroad programs at Quinnipiac.
“If anything, there are other issues which students and parents should be aware of besides the war – the civil wars going on all over the world and the respiratory virus SARS. The bottom line is that there will always be issues regarding safety and its up to the individual to decide for themselves if they want to take that risk,” said Broker.
While it may be reassuring that all of the countries that Quinnipiac sends its students are relatively safe and are not directly involved in the war, some students still would not feel safe studying abroad during the conflict.
“I wouldn’t study abroad now because it is way too dangerous. I would be constantly worried if I was going to get home okay, and also because no one can assure 100 percent protection anywhere, such as airports, malls, bus stations and clubs. I would probably be so paranoid I wouldn’t be able to focus on my studies,” said Daria Kania, a sophomore veterinary technology major.
Parents also play a driving force in student’s decisions not to study abroad.
“I had been thinking about studying abroad for the fall, but that is out of the question now as far as my parents allowing me to go,” said Karla Robator, a sophomore public relations major.
Robator and her suitemates are still considering study abroad in Ireland for the spring semester. Among them is Katelyn McBride, also a public relations major. Despite their parent’s disapproval, the two remain optimistic about studying abroad once war is no longer a threat.
“If a foreign exchange student came [to America], I wouldn’t treat them any differently, so I’m hoping that they would treat me the same way in their country. I also think that being in a shaky environment would give us a truer experience of another culture and also make things a lot more interesting,” said McBride.
Patricia O’Leary and Amy Bonfiglio, both senior mass communications majors, are in agreement with McBride. O’Leary and Bonfiglio have studied abroad separately in both Italy and Ireland and encountered negative attitudes towards Americans during their trips.
“However, I do not think that anyone should change their travel plans because the U.S. is at war. If anything, it is probably a better experience now, because students can get an alternative perspective of the United States,” said O’Leary.
“You can’t let an incident keep you from living,” said Bonfiglio. “I would advise students to let go of their security blankets and take advantage of the study abroad programs while they can. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back this year if I had the chance.”