International crises heighten study-abroad awareness

4 Apr

“International crises heighten study-abroad awareness”

by Vanessa Miller via “The Gazette

Today, it’s Belgium. Before, it was France.

There also is Brazil, where the Zika virus is rampant. And tomorrow could bring an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane somewhere else.

The drumbeat of terror attacks, health risks and natural disaster crises around the world has directors of growing university study-abroad programs continually monitoring international security updates and advisories. Program heads on Iowa’s campuses were paying attention Tuesday, for example, when news broke of more terror attacks — this time in Brussels.

None of Iowa’s three public universities have students studying abroad in Belgium right now, but Iowa State University — for one — has an exchange program planned there in spring 2017. ISU’s study abroad director, Trevor Nelson, said he doesn’t foresee Tuesday’s attacks derailing that program.

“But we have to monitor the situation and make the best determination about whether you are putting students in harm’s way,” he said. “At this point, I don’t believe we are in a position to put that program on hold.”

Nelson said study abroad programs these days have to be “more diligent in terms of monitoring what is happening in other parts of the world.” But, he said, that’s not necessarily indicative of a more dangerous international study environment.

Rather, he credited it — among other things — to a rise in students taking advantage of the opportunity.

“It’s partly a facet of the number of students who are now studying abroad,” he said. “And they are going to every continent.”

When Nelson started as the ISU study abroad director 25 years ago, about 200 students were involved. In the 2015 budget year, ISU sent 1,633 students oversees through a variety of study programs to every continent including Antarctica.

“And the type of students who are studying abroad has changed as well,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago, those who went on semester long programs tended to be self-starters and more independent and resilient than today.” . . . .

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