Learning, Networking and Staying Safe Abroad

Devin Conway

The Georgia Southern study abroad program offers a wide range of coursework and immersive cultural experiences in four different continents and over twenty countries.

“I’ve always wanted to study abroad. It seems like an opportunity not only to learn about a different region of the world, but also a chance to understand how others approach their lives and how that affects the way we treat one another,” James Wall, senior engineering major, said.

A study of three major universities in the state, by the University System of Georgia, found that 92 percent of students who had participated in study abroad programs were either still enrolled in college or had already graduated, as opposed to just 22 percent for students who had not participated.

The sample size of the study is worth considering, as only about 10 percent of U.S. college graduates participated in study abroad programs, but there is still a significant correlation between enrollment in these programs and a clear path to graduation or at least, remaining enrolled en route to a degree.

As the world transitions into a more inclusive, globalized economy, employers are always on the look out for internationally mindful employees and studying abroad can certainly help lead the way to a well-rounded résumé.

However, there are inherent risks to be considered when visiting another country, and in order to remain safe and secure in a foreign location, student travelers should remain informed and alert to the political and cultural landscapes of their prospective destinations at all times.

Paris, France is the second most popular study abroad destination in the world, and on Nov. 13, 2015, the city suffered the most fatal French tragedy since WWII and the most deadly in the last decade of European history.

In a series of jihadist terrorist attacks, ISIS members killed over 130 people and injured at least 350 more, an atrocity that sent shock waves throughout the French community and the world alike.

The West African country, Burkina Faso, suffered a similar atrocity when a hostage situation ended with 29 fatalities and 56 injuries.

Events such as the large-scale sexual assault on women perpetrated by over 1000 men that occurred across Germany on New Year’s Eve raised safety concerns among tourists and German citizens alike.

An eerily similar scenario played out nearly five months prior at a feminist concert and rally in Sweden and were widely unreported until the attacks in Germany finally broke headlines.

Although these tragedies and their underlying causes are frightening and the societal implications are certainly worth noting, it’s important to consider these events in a historical context and to understand that with our subjection to non-stop news coverage via 24/7 media outlets and social media, the most recent world tragedies are going to be covered perpetually as the tragedies of a decade ago, for the most part, cease to be discussed within the realm of public opinion.

“I think you can be at risk no matter where you are. When these things happen, the news can make you feel like you’re in danger all of the time because that’s pretty much all they talk about,” Taylor Dolsak, an undeclared freshman, said.

Those who are interested in studying abroad should keep in mind that irrational levels of fear toward international travel contradicts the entire concept of broadening one’s perspective via new and enlightening experiences.

“How much individual liberty are you willing to give up because you’re afraid? Any travel is dangerous. You have to put that worst case scenario out of mind. Otherwise you will never leave the house,” Karen McCurdy, Georgia Southern political science professor, said.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.