STORY BY TAYLOR EISENHAUER
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.”
Though Hogan said Drake doesn’t have many students study abroad in the Middle East, they will continue to be diligent about the current unrest.
Haley Barbour, a sophomore politics and international relations major, is one of the few Drake students studying abroad in the Middle East this semester.
She chose a program in Amman, Jordan, one of the only remaining Middle Eastern countries in which students can study.
Despite the State Department’s warning that terrorism would be a risk on her trip, Barbour was undeterred.
“I wanted to study Arabic and politics together, and Jordan has this program,” Barbour wrote in an email from Jordan. “In addition, I wanted to get firsthand experiences in a culture so different from my own, which I hope will serve me well in a future career in politics.”
Barbour recognizes that ISIS is definitely a concern when considering travel in the Middle East. This was especially true for her, as Jordan shares borders with Syria and Iraq.
However, she cited this concern as a big reason for choosing the location she did.
“I think the fear (ISIS) creates of Muslims or Arabs in the U.S. is one of the most important reasons I wanted to come here,” Barbour said. “The stereotypes of these people are simply that, stereotypes. And it is going to take Americans willing to prove them wrong if anything is ever going to change. I think it is incredibly important to break down the misunderstanding and prejudices that so many Americans hold about this region.”
Despite the worry of the Jordanian people, Barbour has yet to feel unsafe in Amman, though she was disheartened when she discovered only eight students were participating in her program. Last semester, the program hosted approximately 30 students.
Barbour gets regular security updates on her phone from the State Department and her program has contingency plans should Jordan become unstable.