A few years ago when a student studying abroad in Nepal broke his leg on a mountain, an operator at West Virginia Universitys study abroad help line contacted emergency officials to rescue him.
WVU s Office of International Programs does not mess around when it comes to the safety of students who are studying abroad. The office operates a 24-hour cell phone emergency number, where students can contact University officials.
Before students step on a plane, they are required to take a pre-departure orientation course.
The course goes over safety, health, cultural differences and legal issues. Students are taught to thoroughly research where they are going and are forewarned about their own behavior abroad.
Its the nuts and bolts of studying abroad for the students,said Tara George-Jones, study abroad program coordinator.
In order to contact the student in case of an emergency, the University requires students to submit information on how they can be reached while studying abroad. Prior to departure, the office makes sure students are aware of the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy.
The office receives daily updates on travel conditions, advisories and warningscurrently they are closely monitoring the status of the H1N1 , or swine, flufrom the U.S. State Department, which may have an effect on the students in specific locations abroad.
A students first step to studying abroad is to register for the required study abroad seminar. This seminar instructs students about the variety of study abroad programs, the academic requirements, application process and scholarship opportunities available. The study abroad program coordinator advises the student on everything from legal and cultural differences to drinking bottled water versus tap water and personal expenses.
The office provides students with a pre-departure guide. The guide discusses important information that students and parents need to be aware of when preparing to travel abroad. It includes a checklist of legal forms, support services and safety issues. The office also directs students to health and immunization information. Details are found at http://www.wvu.edu/~intlprog/healthandsafety.html
Students are instructed on the symptoms of culture shock, the disorientation that occurs when living in a different culture for an extended period of time. The office informs parents, family and friends of students studying abroad about culture shock and the services for students.
One of the ways to minimize culture shock is to go on a faculty-led trip. Junior, marketing major Cameron Taylor participated in one in the spring of 2008.
My leader grew up in Belgium, so when we went there he was very familiar with the culture and acted as a liaison on behalf of the students,said Taylor of Morgantown.I felt very safe and knew that in case there was a problem he would be able to handle it and keep us safe.