Student deaths cast light on safety of studying abroad

Earlier this semester, two University of Miami students died within a month of each other while studying abroad. These tragedies have raised questions about the safety of participants in these programs.

These deaths include Scott Monat, a sophomore and neurobiology major, and Michael Anderson, a sophomore and finance major. The cause of Monat’s death is unknown, while Anderson died of cardiac arrest.

During Study Abroad Orientation, each student is given a card with phone numbers they can call in case they need to contact the University of Miami.

However, when it comes to emergencies, students are encouraged to reach the country’s authorities and seek the help of the host university before they reach out to UM.

Students generally will call the U.S. Consulate, parents, friends and administrators in their host universities before notifying UM.

“Only if it’s academic associated and something that I have been unsuccessful in clearing up myself, do I address the problem to UM,” said Sydney Turnbull, a junior studying in Germany and Denmark

Turnbull stays in touch with Jasmine Philips, an assistant director of the study abroad program, through Skype.

Guidelines for student behavior is primarily the responsibility of the host university. UM students are also expected to follow the Student Rights and Responsibilities Manual as well as the rules and regulations enforced at UM while abroad.

“The students are disciplined by the host university for infractions incurred at the host university and are subject to punishment by the host country if they break laws in the host country,” Winick said in an e-mail.

When it comes to housing, exchange students are monitored by their host university’s dormitories, much in the same way that UM monitors the international students currently studying here.

“Those students who live in the university residence halls are subject to the rules and regulations of the residence halls which are monitored by the university personnel,” said Patricia A. Whitely, the vice president for Student Affairs, in a statement to The Miami Hurricane.

“If the student residence is owned by a private company, that company would be responsible for the operation of the residence,” Winick said in her e-mail.

Safety is as much a responsibility of the student as it is their host university.

“By updates and the local papers, the students here know which areas of the city should be avoided at what times of the day,” Turnbull said.

The study abroad program currently has 129 students studying abroad around the world. It offers programs lasting from just a summer to an entire year in 80 partner institutions in 33 countries.