Avoiding Student Travel Travails

Each year, thousands of students travel both domestically andinternationally. Some are part of study abroad programs, others are onfamily excursions, while some are simply on their own to see the world.Student safety while traveling is, and should be, a concern forinstitutions that support and encourage such educationalopportunities.
Published: April 30, 2007

Nearly 10 years ago, Ohio State University (OSU) began a safety initiative to provide support services for students who travel internationally. With more than 57,000 students at the Columbus campus alone and more than 28,000 employees, there wasclearly an opportunity to support a large number of universitycommunity personnel.

Today, the interests of higher education safety officials aswell as those in international education and the State Department, aremore focused on the needs and challenges of students who travel.Student self perception of invincibility makes the challenge daunting,as do students on sponsored programs who may be encouraged to takeweekend trips to further immerse themselves in the culture.

Still, with the appropriate programs in place, a college oruniversity can help student travelers get the most out of theirexperiences while remaining safe and secure.

BriefingMaterials Properly Prepare Travelers
At OSU, the program has various dimensions, now expandedinto travel planned by Student Affairs beyond that of internationaleducation and involves various offices. For international travel thereare five primary elements:

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  • Briefing material for the student’s destinationpoints is provided by Security Services using both State DepartmentOverseas Security Advisory Council information as well as a privatesubscribed service that provides information of importance
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  • Information folders on travel safety are available to allstudents and faculty, whether on organized and sponsored programs orpersonal travel. This material is in the form of a travel safety tipsfolder and a 24-hour/seven-day-a-week single contact point provided for anyone traveling. Aninformation card is distributed by the Study Abroad Program forsponsored programs that provides the one phone number that is alwaysstaffed
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  • A videotape of cautions is available using studentinterviews as the primary content and demonstrating the concerns andevents they may encounter. This is specific to OSU studentexperiences
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  • Briefing of faculty and trip coordinators by SecurityService staff is available when requested
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  • Program coordinators proactively notify the StateDepartment in country counsel of their impending visit

For domestic Student Affairs trips as well as those fewinternational trips sponsored by a Student Affairs office, a variationof the program exits. Additionally, students complete a travelparticipant agreement and waiver before they travel, which includes acommitment to conforming to the student code of conduct.

Students BenefitFrom Others’ Past Experiences
In all these efforts, the role of security and safety staff is toprovide guidance to students to be alert to personal safety challengesthey may encounter while traveling. At the trip counselor’sbriefings, past travelers are encouraged to relay personal experiences.Hearing these real-life examples from their contemporaries oftenbuffers the message from the traditional authority figures. The valueand educational benefit of travel for students is recognized andencouraged, and every safety effort is designed to support, notdiscourage that experience.

Student Affairs and Public Safety also subscribe to one of thecommercially available travel safety service providers, iJet.Administrators can make pretrip travel inquiries or search for healthand safety information while travelers are abroad.

Such programs not only benefit the traveling student, but alsoreduce the risk for the institution, program sponsors and those withresponsibility for travel. Litigation has resulted from variousunfortunate incidents that have taken place in years past.Institutional image, response to a crisis, and proactive efforts toreduce the risk of the unknown are all-important in theequation.

Challenges still exist in reaching traveling students who arenot part of a credit-earning travel experience. A scuba diving trip, avisit to an area rich in architectural diversity, a venture to exploreruins with a faculty member doing research are a few examples we havecome to learn about. A constant safety message is also needed forstudents traveling alone to traditional spring breakdestinations.

We see further expansion of the number of students wanting tomake overseas travel part of their educational experience. With a bitof preparation and planning, this can be an exciting, rewarding andsafe experience.


Patrick Maughanis director of Security and Fire Prevention Services and John Klebergis in charge of Student Affairs Risk Assessment for Ohio StateUniversity. For additional information about this program, E-mail maughan.1@osu.eduor kleberg.1@osu.edu.

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the May/June 2007 issue of Campus Safety magazine. To subscribe, go to https://secure2.bobitweb.com/campussafetymagazine/subscribe/.

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