Office of Study Abroad pledges to keep students safe

By Lauren Randall

The Razorback Reporter

About 80 students who plan to study abroad met in November with UA officials to ask questions and learn how best to prepare before leaving the U.S.

They were part of groups whose spring, summer and fall study plans take them far from home. DeDe Long, director of the Office of Study Abroad, wants students to pack a lot of travel savvy, with communication leading the list.

“We’re advising students on programs that we trust that are run by people that are in place to be their primary contact when they are overseas,” Long said. “Everyone that is abroad has somebody looking out for them in any country as well as their parents, as well as us as the home institution.”

Long also advised students to follow STEP, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program run by the U.S. Department of State.

Sophomore Ellie Burress plans to travel to India next summer, and is a little nervous to travel, she said.

“I’m a little nervous but I feel confident that everyone, everywhere has taken as many proactive steps as they can to make sure that things are as safe as possible,” Burress said.

STEP should help her.

STEP lets the State Department know where students are and in which country they are traveling during their time abroad. Students who are not using programs through the UofA have to apply for STEP. The State Department monitors the security of countries and informs the UofA of issues or dangers in countries across the globe.

“There are different degrees of alerts or cautions that the U.S. State Department provides if there is an event in a country that is potentially dangerous for students to be involved in,” Long said.

State warns if any event is deemed too dangerous for American students, and the university does not send students to these areas. No UA students have returned early because of recent events in Paris, and the number of students going abroad in the spring is roughly the same as last year, Long said.

Junior Maddie Sperber plans to study in Madrid for the spring semester. She plans to leave in January and return in May. Her family is concerned for her safety and does not want her to go; she still plans to go, Sperber said.

“I knew that people who are sending me over there wouldn’t let me go if I wasn’t safe,” Sperber said. “I’ve told my family that I have been receiving emails from my program with updates every few days about what is happening within the country and how they’re dealing with it and they have already made it clear that if it is too dangerous or not safe for students they are canceling our trip.”

All of the programs are scheduled to continue for spring, Long said.

“We are sending close to 115 students abroad and Europe is a huge part of that,” Long said. “I think students realize that as long as they take responsibility for themselves, and that we are doing all we can to minimize the risk for them that they are still ready to study abroad.”

Junior Libby O’Daniel is going to Denmark in the summer.

“I really want to experience something that is completely different than what I’ve known my whole life,” O’Daniel said. “I want to challenge myself to be more independent and gain a new perspective on world events and cultures.”