BYU students and faculty members pack their common sense when they study abroad, but the Kennedy Center does its part to protect Cougars who travel internationally, according to international program directors.
The magnitude-6.2 earthquake that hit central Italy last month claimed at least 290 lives. Meanwhile, the Islamic State is spreading terror and threatening the lives of millions on a global scale. A recent attack involved a bombing at a Kurdish wedding in Turkey, and killed more than 50 people.
Aaron Rose, BYU’s international program coordinator, said the program ensures that the professors and faculty members who lead the study abroad programs are informed about the University’s policies for travel safety. They are well prepared to handle the potential dangers and challenges that come with traveling abroad.
“We have a meeting with all the study abroad program advisors where we talk about safety issues,” Rose said. “It’s all about the preparation and making sure people have the correct information to take personal responsibility for their safety.”
All study abroad participants are required to take a half-credit cross-cultural preparation course before starting their programs. The classes are tailored to each program and cover safety precautions, as well as cultural immersion and geography.
Lauren Allred, a former London study abroad participant, said the preparation course helped make her feel safe while traveling abroad.
“We went over what to do in case of an injury, as well as what sources to turn to if there was an emergency,” Allred said. “The professors always knew where we were, who we were with and what we were doing. They had a lot of trust in us.”
Lynn Elliott, BYU’s director for international study programs, said one of the most important safety precautions is for students to be aware of their surroundings.
“It’s important for students to be smart, make wise decisions and always travel in groups,” Elliott said.
Elliott said BYU also works with professionals when analyzing potential dangers.
“We have full time international security analysts who are always aware and up to date with what’s going on,” Elliott said.
The international security analysts help compile information from the U.S. Department, Home Office of the U.K., study abroad programs at other universities and other professional safety organizations to prepare students and faculty for foreign travel. BYU study abroad programs also have a travel registry so students and faculty can let the university know where they are at all times.
“We work with a company that will be able to get students on a plane and home to the U.S. if a program is ever in jeopardy,” Rose said. “BYU subscribes to an international insurance plan that kicks in whenever there is an emergency need.”
Students and faculty members can visit travelsmart.byu.edu to find more information about international travel safety. This website presents an overview of the University’s travel policy, highlights restricted areas in the world, lists required steps to get international health insurance and provides assistance from the U.S. Department of State.