Travelling abroad is the classic student adventure, the prospect of leaving behind the reality of the long summer living with your parents and working part time for minimum wage would appeal to almost all of us. A summer of sun, sex, but no suspicious parents certainly sounds tempting. However just like starting university this adventure means once again embarking into the unknown. So how do you prevent things from going wrong?
The tragic news of the recent death of a student traveller, 19 year old gap year student, Henry Miller’s, has prompted questions about the duty of care universities owe towards their students abroad. Henry died whilst participating in a tribal ritual in the Colombian rainforest.
Certainly opportunities to go abroad, whether to study or take a work placement are deservedly rife. In such a globalised and multicultural world higher education institutions have a responsibility to prepare their students to face the challenges inherent in an interwoven global society. Indeed universities go above and beyond to provide opportunities for students. Providing study placements abroad, encouraging the students to take work overseas should certainly continue.
However, we must ask where the responsibility of the university ends. I believe that universities do enough to seek opportunities and encourage students to go abroad. They provide a springboard from which students should take their own initiative, after all this is a chance to prove that they are ready to be responsible adults, to qualm the nerves of parents about to bid their child farewell for months on end.
It is never the job of a university to hold your hand. They do not guide you through the stress of essay submission or shepherd you to attend every lecture. Instead university is largely about taking responsibility for yourself, therefore, why should your institution alter their attitude when it comes to going abroad?
Of course advice and guidance is priceless. As long as your institution provides you with as much information as possible it then becomes a matter of the student utilising this to make informed decisions.
A university’s accountability when, as is inevitable when inexperienced students go abroad, the student faces trouble rests predominately upon the guidance they have provided this student with. If they fail to provide a student with the necessary supervision then, and only then, should questions be raised about what more the university could have done.
We must recognise that the power a university has in protecting their student abroad is ultimately very limited.
Students must act with common sense and prepare themselves to face the challenges of traveling abroad rather than relying on their university. The chance to see the world is a rewarding one which gives students the opportunity to prove their own sense of responsibility beyond the safety net of university.