Fall Family Weekend was the weekend of October 7-9. This was a great time to visit Gonzaga University and see the leaves change, but many parents were visiting Gonzaga because their students applied and had been accepted to study abroad this spring. This weekend marks only the 2nd semester that the Study Abroad Office has offered the Parent and Families Pre-Departure session.
We know that parents and families have a lot of questions about sending their students abroad. Some are simple questions such as, “How do students get money while abroad?” and “What should students pack?” Some questions are more complex such as, “What do I do if my student is injured while abroad?”
However, one of the questions that never gets asked, but should always be addressed is, “Should my student rent a car when studying abroad?” We recommend that students don’t rent cars and definitely don’t rent motorcycles or scooters. “Travelers may know that the environment may be different in foreign countries, but they do not realize how different,” said Will Cocks, of the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
You may be surprised to learn that road fatalities, not terrorism, are the number one killer of Americans who travel international according to the State Department. So, while it may seem fun and exciting to rent a car or a scooter to drive around Rome, it’s not advised. While Gonzaga can’t stop students from doing this, you as parents and family members should share your concerns and reservations about driving abroad.
It’s also very important to ask your student how they are going to be traveling while abroad. Most of our students will use planes, trains, buses and sometimes ferries to travel, but it’s really important that students take ownership of their experience by researching the places they want to travel. They should evaluate the methods of transportation for safety and quality, not just cost to travel to the destination they are interested in visiting. Just because a bus ticket or excursion through a tour company is significantly cheaper with one company doesn’t mean that its safer or the best option.
Studying abroad can be no more dangerous than being here in Spokane, but it’s about making our students aware of the challenges ahead of them and encouraging them to take ownership of their experience.