By: Richard Menard, Study Abroad
“I’m going to Italy (or England, or Zambia)” is often overheard these days across campus. As the spring semester winds down, students are getting excited about their travels abroad. The appeal of traveling to a foreign country has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. History is scattered with famous travelers such as Marco Polo, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway and Freya Stark. Most recently, shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Parts Unknown, have highlighted the travel experience.
The safety of our students is always our highest priority. But studying abroad in Argentina, China, Italy, South Africa and Zambia is no more dangerous than a Mission: Possible trip to Denver, San Francisco, or St. Louis, or vacationing in Atlanta, Philadelphia or New Orleans. However, we do know there are certain places we aren’t comfortable sending students. Gonzaga has carefully selected all of the programs that appear on the study abroad website, studyabroad.gonzaga.edu. These programs have been vetted not only for academic rigor but for health issues, housing, insurance, on-site orientation, safety, and security. We selected these programs because we want students to have a great experience and we know that these universities and organizations offer the services that we feel are necessary to give students the opportunities they crave.
We also continuously monitor the safety and security of the countries and cities in which our students are studying. We follow the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Warnings. We use CISI Insurance to give us another view of a country’s security. We belong to several professional organizations, NAFSA and Forum on Education, that keep us appraised of any situations happening worldwide that would affect our students.
Additionally, the Study Abroad Office facilitates a pre-departure session for every student, which covers safety and security while studying abroad. Below is the date and theme of each session. We preach “common sense” to the students. If you wouldn’t do it here in Spokane or at home, why would you do it in Bangkok or Copenhagen? Once our students arrive at their destination city, they are again oriented in safety and security specific to that city. To be frank, our biggest concerns aren’t about terrorism or kidnappings, but more with petty crimes, such as wallets and passports being stolen.
Pre-Departure Session #1: Monday, March 23rd
This session will introduce students to the overall theme of studying abroad and provide self-awareness and cultural preparedness. The Study Abroad staff will also introduce students to journal activities that they will maintain before, during, and after their time abroad.
Pre-Departure Session #2: Monday, April 9th
Dr. Joe Kinsella, Assistant Academic Vice President, will provide an opportunity to discuss and to understand a student’s own cultural practices and appreciating diversity around the world.
Pre-Departure Session #3: Thursday, April 16th
During this session students will participate in a game called BaFa BaFa, which simulates the experience and struggle of entering into and engaging with a new culture.
Pre-Departure Session #4, Sunday, April 26th
In the final session, students will be given guidance and reminders on topics such as healthcare, money management, safety and security, and culture shock. Students will also work through scenarios regarding health, safety, alcohol, drugs, and sexual assault.
If you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us. We know that studying abroad can be an exciting but scary time not only for students but for their families.