The University of Iowa

UI Steps Up Monitoring of Students Abroad

May 4th, 2011

By Allie Wright, The Daily Iowan

Summer Schoop stayed up all night Sunday to watch President Obama inform the world about the slaying of Osama bin Laden.

The University of Iowa junior, who is studying abroad in Seville, Spain, said she streamed Obama’s speech online after she saw the news on Facebook and Twitter.

The next morning, Schoop, 20, began to receive e-mails from the U.S. Embassy about travel warnings for Americans abroad, she said.

“I am definitely nervous now to be traveling back to the States, especially now since I will be by myself,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Schoop is studying with Cultural Experience Abroad, and she said the organization sent an e-mail to students, making sure they don’t participate in any demonstrations. The e-mail also said participants should “try not to ‘appear’ American.”

“I have been keeping up with all of the news and hope that all will be safe as I journey back to America in two weeks,” she said.

Meanwhile, officials emphasized the safety of the more than 300 UI students abroad is their top concern as the world reactions to the death of the Al Qaeda leader.

Even before the latest foreign-policy frenzy, UI Office of Study Abroad had started planning to expand its system for tracking students studying in other countries, said John Rogers, an assistant director of the office. The change comes on the wake of natural disasters in Japan and prolonged political unrest in the Middle East.

The current system keeps record of where students are studying, the dates of their programs, and a photocopy passports, he said.

Rogers said only students participating in UI study-abroad programs have been required to send the information, but now it’s becoming required of UI students traveling through other programs.

The U.S. Department of State travel advisories are always forwarded to students in other countries, Rogers said, and one was sent out Monday after bin Laden’s death.

The message included a note advising UI students to keep a low profile and avoid large crowds, he said. He said the Study Abroad Office has not received any indications of any UI student being in danger or expressing concerns about safety.

Rogers said the joint effort between the Study Abroad Office and UI administration is to ensure officials can contact students overseas in the event of an emergency.

No UI students are in Pakistan or Afghanistan because a United States travel warning prohibits the university from sending students to the area, Rogers said.

Alison Kiss, executive director of Security on Campus, a national organization that works to prevent criminal violence on college campuses, compared the time following bin Laden’s death as the time immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and said students should work to be informed about the political state of the country in which they plan to spend time.

“Many times for students, it’s their first time leaving the country,” she said. “Imagine [a high risk] added to that.”

But not all UI students who are studying abroad said they are worried about their safety.

UI junior Joe Moriarty, who’s studying in Cork, Ireland, said he is not concerned about anything bad happening during his travels.

He said he is confident about his safety because of increased safety precautions in the area after bin Laden’s death.

“If anything, I’d say people back home have more to worry about than anyone in Ireland, or Europe for that matter,” the 20-year-old said in a Facebook message.