Political unrest in world affects study abroad

Many U.S. students choose to study abroad each year to expand their educations globally. American universities have encouraged their students to study abroad with more than 250,000 college students on average studying abroad annually.

With the political unrest and rioting seen in many countries in recent months, several universities have withdrawn their students from programs in Japan, Egypt and Mexico. While American universities have long encouraged students to study abroad, recent events have caused many to see issues with international travel.

Many UNA students choose to study abroad through departmental programs within the university. UNA junior Allison Ray will be travelling to Oman, on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, this summer with a program through the U. S. State Department. While travel to the Middle East can cause concern due to current political issues, Ray is not overly concerned about travelling there.

“Safety is always one of my main priorities while traveling, and I am confident that with my current scholarship, I will not be sent anywhere that there is a doubt in the student safety,” said Ray.

There is always concern with safety wherever you travel, according to Dr. Scott Infanger, associate professor of Spanish, who is currently planning a May intersession trip to Peru.

“The university has a blanket advisory that if the State Department places any sort of advisory on a country, we do not allow our students to travel there through the university,” said Infanger.

Before participating in a study abroad program, research is a crucial aspect of planning for students.

“The Internet now allows for the modern-day traveler to stay up to date on news, alerts and specific information on the country and areas of travel,” said Ray. Some countries may be safer than others, and it is important to know which ones are best, according to Ray.

Infanger encourages students to remain culturally sensitive during trips and to be prepared to interact with the basic vocabulary of the region.

“Be aware, try to blend in with your surroundings and know what the limitations are where you are travelling,” said Infanger.

Both Infanger and Ray agree that checking with the State Department of Travel and the local American Embassy in the destination country are important steps in studying abroad. By registering the trip with both parties, it increases safety should an accident or national issue arise. “While it is important to take precautions when studying abroad, the benefits far outweigh the risks,” said Infanger.