LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 19, 2017) — As the University of Kentucky campus begins to quiet down for the summer, education abroad activity is ramping up, with more than 600 UK students, faculty and staff going abroad. Whether students travel abroad to study, intern, research, teach or do service, they will be exposed to new ways of thinking and living, other cultures and peoples, and different aspects of their own fields of study.
Student health and safety is a top priority for the University of Kentucky, both on campus and in education abroad settings. The UK International Center (UKIC) monitors global events and maintains regular communication with in-country faculty program directors, partner institutions, affiliate providers, students and university administrators.
In the event of an emergency, the UKIC can identify the location of all program participants and will immediately initiate communication with travelers and emergency contacts, taking action as the situation warrants. These efforts are led by Jason Hope, director of International Health, Safety and Security (IHSS).
"Studying and traveling abroad requires many of the same health and safety precautions that one would take in the United States," Hope said. "However, students need to be aware of risks that may be unique to traveling abroad and living in a particular country or region."
Within the International Center, IHSS works closely with Education Abroad and Exchanges (EA) to lead risk analysis and institutional crisis response efforts to support the UK community abroad. IHSS also monitors news outlets and U.S. government resources to identify current events and threats that may have implications for the UK community.
"The UKIC works with students who are traveling all over the world for a variety of educational purposes, including those participating on faculty-directed programs, internships in professional settings and medical rotations," said Miko McFarland, executive director of Education Abroad and Exchanges. "EA works in tandem with IHSS to refine our preparedness and response, pulling in expertise from around campus to support our UK travelers."
To prepare students for educational travel abroad, IHSS and EA offer a variety of resources and services, including required pre-departure student orientations, faculty and staff workshops for employees directing programs, webinars for parents and online resources outlining best practices for health and safety abroad. Additionally, IHSS and EA enroll students in the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides them with informational updates and facilitates government assistance in the event of a crisis.
Program participants also have travel medical insurance and evacuation coverage for the duration of their time abroad. Before departure, they receive information outlining their insurance enrollment, claim-filing instructions and emergency contact information.
"I think you’re always concerned especially with all that’s going on in the world … but any concerns I had were alleviated with the webinar," said Laura Anschel, parent of Violet Marsh and academic ombud coordinator at UK.
Anschel said it was helpful for her to know about the student health coverage overseas and to have the contact information for any emergencies. "Having had prior experience with my children helped, but having Jason’s number and knowing I have someone to contact in case of an emergency gave me peace of mind."
Marsh, a rising junior psychology major, echoed her mother. "EA is doing its best to ensure we are prepared both mentally and physically." Marsh is part of two programs this summer: Substance Abuse as a Global Challenge in Amsterdam and Bluegrass Down Under in Australia.
"Research indicates that studying abroad is no more dangerous than studying in the United States," Hope said. "The key is to prepare students for the unique situations they may encounter overseas, and to set up robust support systems to help them when they need it. That is what we strive to do every day."
For questions about international health, safety and security; UK’s insurance and evacuation coverage; or travel registration for UK employees or non-credit students, please visit https://ihss.uky.edu/ or contact Jason Hope at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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