The events of September 11th, 2001, highlighted the importance of international safety issues. This has increased the need for a U.S. citizenry capable of understanding and working with people from all over the world. Even in this time of added caution and uncertainty, study abroad remains a beneficial and safe way to enhance a student's academic program and promote self-growth. According to U.S. Secretary of Education, Rod Paige:
Complex global interactions, once reserved for the diplomatic corps, are today the stuff of everyday business deals and cultural exchanges. If we expect students to navigate international waters, we need to give them an international education that meets the highest standards...
Study abroad is one way that U.S. college and university students are best introduced to the cultures and citizens of the rest of the world. By spending a year, semester, or shorter time abroad, U.S. students learn about the language, culture, and philosophy of others. Study abroad affords students the opportunity to be ambassadors; they can set an example, help break down stereotypes and prejudice, and learn while living with others. However, the personal growth available through study abroad comes with personal challenges.
One challenge for the study abroad student is a lack of consistent policies and procedures in place by study abroad program providers. According to Gary Rhodes, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Global Education:
The only thing I can guarantee about the many study abroad programs and different study abroad program providers, and their policies, procedures and support services is that they are all very different. Some colleges and universities have a 40-80 person infrastructure, while others have no full-time study abroad program administrators. No national organization exists which review, evaluates, and approves or rejects programs or support services in study abroad. This lack of regulation accentuates the need for participants and their families to look closely at the programs available, and understand the strengths and weaknesses of their support services.
Parents and participants must be prepared for both the best and worst case scenarios that could happen abroad. When you were deciding what U.S. university or college to attend, you and your parents carefully considered the pros and cons of the academic programs and student services each institution could provide. Take the same time and effort in selecting your study abroad program. To better insure your health and safety abroad, try to evaluate every aspect of the program you choose.