For the past year and a half, my oldest child has been studying at a university in Amsterdam. He’s majoring in physics and — if all goes according to plan — he should be earning his bachelor’s degree in 2017. He comes home summers and over Christmas and I visit him there at least twice a year. So far, so good. But on the heels of this morning’s news of terrorist attacks in Belgium, he said something that rocked me to my core: “It seems as though the bombings are getting closer.”
Only last November, terrorist attacks in Paris — 316 miles from Amsterdam — killed 129 people. One of those killed was a 23-year-old California State Long Beach student, Nohemi Gonzalez, who had gone to Paris for a semester of study at the Strate School of Design. Not only did her death horrify her classmates, but it also made many parents of study-abroad students wonder whether kids should still be taking college classes overseas.
Now it’s Brussels — 108 miles from Amsterdam — that’s under attack, with at least 34 people killed and many more injured today in blasts at the airport and a subway station. Only a few days ago, the suspected mastermind behind the Paris attacks was arrested.
Upon hearing of the attack, I immediately messaged my son in Amsterdam on Facebook. Although he’s alarmed — and has commented that the attacks are indeed too close for comfort — he’s not going anywhere. He’ll continue living his life and attending classes this week, just as he has been. He noted his certainty that his professors will discuss the issue today with students, just as they did in the days following the Paris attacks.
But this latest incident has given me pause, and when friends ask me what I think about whether American students should continue studying abroad, I’m no longer sure exactly what to tell them.
My husband and I raised our three kids in London, and lived there for seven years before moving to the States in 2000. I’ve long been a proponent of kids studying abroad, and even wrote an article a few months back about the advantages of getting a degree overseas. At the time, I asserted that the advantages to earning a degree abroad are many, but one of the main ones is the money saved by students and families. Many programs in Europe offer bachelor’s degrees after only three years, and often at a fraction of the price charged by U.S. institutions.
Currently, more than 46,500 U.S. students are pursuing degrees overseas, roughly 84 percent of whom are enrolled in bachelor’s or master’s degree programs, according to the most recent data from the Institute of International Education. The United Kingdom is the most popular destination, followed by Canada, France and Germany. . .
**They aren’t the only ones, some other colleges are backing out too. It’s up to you, just be safe! To be honest, I think we’re just as much in danger no matter where we are. But I’m probably a bad person to give advice given my whole life is now spent abroad 🙂 ***DB
As the world mourns those who died and were injured in Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels, universities in the U.S. continue to work on strategies to keep students studying abroad as safe as possible.
And now one school, Texas Tech University, has decided the best recourse is to suspend its Belgium programs altogether.
The school announced that its summer and fall study abroad programs there have been canceled in light of the terrorist attacks that killed at least 30 people, says Elizabeth McDaniel, the school’s senior director for International Education.
“It’s the type of thing we are thinking about all the time, so it didn’t come as an, ‘Oh my gosh, we never thought this could possibly happen’ type of thing,” McDaniel says of Tuesday’s attacks. “Of course it has happened before and will likely happen again.”
Four Texas Tech students were in Brussels when the attack happened, but all are safe and accounted for, according to a report from KCBD.
McDaniel says the department is proactive in its safety measures for study abroad students, and that before venturing out of the country students must attend a two-hour safety seminar, where among other things they discuss potential terrorist attacks.
“We reevaluate safety measures every day based on what’s going on in the world,” McDaniel says. “We just look at the situation continuously and evaluate where our programs are going, where our students are going, and then make decisions accordingly.”
Texas Tech has study abroad programs in more than 70 countries. . . . .
A Famous Tourist Scam in Paris, France
You’ll find this scam is one of the top scams in Paris, France. It’s been around for many years, (because it works) and is known as the “Friendship Bracelet Scam” the “Paris String Scam” or by the name given to those who try to commit the scam on you, “Bracelet Pushers.” The scam is committed by who many describe as “string men” or as local Paris merchants call them “con-merchants.” Non-french speaking tourists are targeted the most. While the Paris Friendship Bracelet Scam is popular in Paris, it can also be found at many tourist locations outside of Paris in France too, and to a lesser extent in other countries such as Italy and Spain.
Where the String Scam Occurs
One of the most common Paris locations where you’ll find the Friendship Bracelet Scam practiced is throughout the Montmartre area. Specifically the scammers will target tourists and first time visitors as they approach and walk up the giant staircase that leads from the Metro to the Sacre Coeur area of the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur. This is a popular stomping ground for tourists and is Montmartre’s leading tourist attraction, and probably the most-visited church in Paris. Visitors to Paris should also be aware that this scam is also prevalent at many of the Metro lines and stations that you travel on to get to this location.
The “string men” seem to usually target female tourists (but not always) as they enter the small fenced square below Sacré-Coeur and proceed toward the stairs that run up the hillside. You can spot the “string men” as they are usually lined up on the sides of the stairs leading to the Sacre-Coeur. These innocent looking people are annoying “con-merchants” who have the “Paris String Scam” honed down to a science.
How the String Scam Plays Out
The scam begins like this. One of the “‘string men” walks up to you and engages you in innocent conversation and will usually say that they want to show you a magic trick. Before you know it, a “string man” has grabbed your wrist or one or two fingers and encircled it with a homemade bracelet of colored string.
Typically the string men will say something to you like “it’s for the church” or “a gift.” Sometimes the string men are more polite (they’ll ask the visitor to hold a string) and before you know it, the string men will somehow manage to grab your wrist or fingers and encircle it with a homemade bracelet of colored string, yarn, or other crafty-looking item.
Next, when the string men finish making your new “local Paris string bracelet souvenir,” they will demand payment of around €20 which is quite obviously not what the bracelet is worth. If you fail to pay them, they will doggedly follow you and be VERY insistent that you provide some amount of payment. These “con-merchants” are so demanding, they succeed in intimidating many tourists into paying them because it’s the only way to get rid of them.
Another variation of this scam occurs when the string men find a couple and offer the woman a friendship bracelet. When the woman kindly denies, the scammer tells her there is no charge. To get the scammer to leave them alone, the woman offers her wrist and the scammer ties the “Friendship Bracelet” on her wrist. A second scammer then appears and offers another “Friendship Bracelet” to the man. The man thinks to himself, “well if they are free why not?” and then he offers his wrist to the scammer. Once the Friendship Bracelets are tied onto the wrists . . . .
Should universities support students and faculty when they travel to dangerous countries for research or study abroad programs?
Some say their passion may overpower their concerns.
The potential to help activists and scholars outweighs the risks posed by an unstable country, argues Peter Levine, a Tufts University professor. Next month, he will lead a conference in Ukraine, even though the US State Department has flagged the former Soviet republic as dangerous for travel. The summit will focus on civics, in part because the country exemplifies the struggles of a fledgling democracy.
But the risks are real.
Mr. Pochter, who traveled to Egypt through a private education group, was killed during clashes between supporters and opponents of Mohamed Morsi, then the president of Egypt, The New York Times reported.
When countries are perceived as conflict zones, their popularity as study-abroad sites for American students inevitably declines, notes the AP. . . .
When summer arrives, all you can think about is that vacation getaway, getting the kids off to camp and traveling to visit friends and family. You’re looking forward to spending some relaxing time away from your hectic everyday environment. Unfortunately, bed bugs feel the same way. They’re itching to get out and see the world just as much as you are.
Amazingly, 99.6 percent of professional pest management companies in the United States encountered a bed bug infestation in 2013, according to a survey conducted by Bugs Without Borders. Bed bugs are skilled hitchhikers that can be picked up from hotels, motels, public transportation, rental homes and other public areas. You might think you’re safe at a five-star luxury hotel, but bed bugs don’t discriminate. Bed bugs can attach themselves to and be carried by any of your personal belongings, including luggage, clothing, computers and more.
Take steps to stay safe from bed bugs during the summer travel season. Use these tips as a checklist to make sure you’re protected before setting out to enjoy fun in the sun.
* Know the signs. Before you embark on your vacation, take some time to educate yourself on the signs of a bed bug infestation. These include tiny dark or red spots from a fresh bed bug feeding or a trampled bed bug. Although they are very small, bed bugs, their eggs and cast skins can be seen by the naked eye. They can usually be found hiding in tight, typically undisturbed and cramped spaces near the sleeping areas of a home. Additionally, unexplained bites on a person’s skin may be another sign of a bed bug outbreak. If the infestation is large, bed bugs will lurk in other areas outside the bedroom and you will likely smell a sickly sweet odor.
* Take preventive measures. If you’ve been traveling often, have a child in college or have had a previous bed bug infestation, it’s important to be proactive about prevention. Pack a flashlight in your suitcase to help you inspect your travel accommodations right when you arrive. Ask a pest professional to help you find a strategy that’s best for your family and home. If you travel often or feel you are at high risk for bed bugs, consider an active liner on your bed at home. Where other bedding products such as encasements solely attempt to trap bed bugs within or prevent them from migrating, an active liner kills bed bugs on contact and stops infestations before they establish. . . .
Each year, Drake sends approximately 450 students abroad to study for credit, and they can choose from more than70 countries.
However, student safety abroad is a growing concern with the recent unrest caused by the Islamic State, a terrorist organization commonly referred to as ISIS.
Recent attacks include the burning of a Jordanian pilot and the Paris attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine office.
ISIS also took credit for the killing of at least 20 people at a Tunisian museum in March.
In countries like Syria and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Department of State has issued travel warnings for these countries due to terrorist threats from “violent extremist groups,” including the Islamic State.
The State Department issues travel warnings when travelers should very carefully consider whether they should go to the county in question.
Drake has its own criteria for determining a country’s safety for students.
Associate Director of Drake International and Education Abroad Jen Hogan explained that two routes could be followed, depending on the student’s program. If the program is through affiliate providers, Drake heeds their advice.
“We really follow their guidance and their knowledge in regions that might have various issues going on,” Hogan said. “(Our providers) keep their pulses on … critical global issues, such as health pandemics or threats of terrorism. If they feel like there’s a threat … they will suspend the program until they feel like that program is not going to impact the students’ safety and security.”
The affiliates provide evacuation insurance to cover medical, political or other types of emergencies.
For programs through Drake’s strategic partnerships abroad, a Risk Assessment Committee has the final say on safety.
The committee consults with other schools or providers, such as the School for International Training in Vermont and allows Drake staff to determine evacuation plans.
Three students were evacuated from Egypt during the Arab Spring in 2011 and a January-term course to Ghana was cancelled this year due to the Ebola outbreak, Hogan said. But ISIS hasn’t affected Drake students abroad — yet.
“Anyone is vulnerable to ISIS,” Hogan said. “…It’s kind of the state of the world right now. Safety is not guaranteed no matter where you go.” . . .
Whether your passport needs additional pages to accommodate all your stamps or you are planning your first big cross-country trip, it’s important to take care of credit card prep before you pack. Knowing the essentials for traveling with credit cards can help you avoid problems and enjoy your experience.
1. Choose Your Card(s) Wisely
Deciding on a card can be intimidating, but some options can help maximize your travel experiences. It’s a good idea to find out what kind of travel perks you could be getting — from concierge services and free flight luggage check-ins to rental car or hotel discounts and medical travel insurance. In addition, it’s good to know what emergency preparations are in place and if your credit or debit card will give you a fair exchange rate. Since you will likely be spending more money than usual, it’s a good idea to use the cards that generate the most valuable rewards. Before you apply for a reward card, it’s also helpful to check your credit score to see if you meet the issuer’s requirements — and apply only for cards you’re more likely to be approved for. (You can see your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
2. Call Ahead
Just as you tell your loved ones before you head out on a trip, it’s important to let your credit card issuers know of your plans. Most companies regularly monitor your spending for fraud and if they notice several purchases that do not align with your normal location or behavior, they might shut down or suspend your card. Give the 800 number on the back of your card a ring and share your destination and travel dates so you don’t get stuck without credit when you need it most.
3. Learn the Fees
Traveling abroad can open you up to a whole new set of bank fees so it’s a good idea to get educated. See if your card incurs foreign transaction fees or excessive ATM fees so you can avoid them or build them into your budget. With a little research, you’ll know how you can shop smartly abroad.
4. Research Restrictions
Some issuers have restrictions on cards being used outside your normal purchasing pattern. This especially affects travel outside the U.S. and can include daily spending or withdrawal limits, so call ahead to ask about these rules and how to lift them for the duration of your travel. . . .
When news that Ebola had entered the U.S. broke in September, panic resulted for many residents.
However, while the threat of the foreign disease is now more tangible, it is unlikely that citizens need to fear.
Meanwhile, several strategies and precautions exist for students interested in the Study Abroad program at ISU they can take despite this threat.
“At this time the Office of International Studies and Programs does not have any students studying in Western Africa,” Samantha Potempa, Study Abroad coordinator, said.
“We are closely monitoring the Ebola situation, and will continue to do so. If an ISU study abroad student was affected, we would work with the student to help them receive the necessary medical attention,” she said.
“Study abroad programs are wonderful things and the current Ebola situation is not one that should discourage students,” Dr. Ben Sadd, assistant professor of Infectious Disease Ecology, said.
As of now, it is advisable not to travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia. This is where outbreaks have been the most severe here, but outside of these countries, risk is negligible, Sadd said.
The best way students can educate themselves on foreign diseases is by doing research. Doing research when travelling or planning to travel to unfamiliar destinations should be a top priority for any traveler. . . .