Recent terror attacks put a spotlight on travel safety, best practices for UO students and faculty

In the wake of the recent terror attacks in France, Lebanon, Iraq, and Mali, many in the UO community have become increasingly aware of how an international event can impact Eugene and our students studying abroad.

At the time of the terror attacks in Paris this past November, there were 13 UO students in France, participating on study abroad programs in Lyon and Angers. In the hours and days immediately following the Paris incidents, Global Education Oregon (GEO, the UO’s study abroad office) communicated important information and updates—including links to multiple US Department of State and embassy travel alerts—to the 124 UO students currently studying in Europe on GEO-sponsored programs. The communications emphasized the importance of maintaining situational awareness, and encouraged students to inform program site staff about any independent travel plans. Round-the-clock emergency contact numbers were also provided.

“Our office remains committed to doing everything possible to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff around the world,” said Dennis Galvan, vice provost for international affairs. “We are delighted that so many UO community members travel, study, work and conduct research around the world. We want all of them to be safe, and encourage everyone who travels internationally to take the extra, small, step of registering their travel. That way we can be of help in times of trouble.”

The recent terror attacks and our emergency response efforts shed light on how many people connected to the UO travel without us knowing their whereabouts.

Through communications channels, the university learned that one UO faculty member was visiting Paris at the time of the attacks, but safely headed home the day after the attacks.

A GEO student studying in Spain and visiting Paris with her father at the time of the attacks was reached by GEO Spain staff, and returned to her program in Spain within a few days.

Some days after the November 12-13 attacks, GEO confirmed that an unregistered UO student was on an internship in Lebanon when attacks struck Beirut. That student was outside the city and was safe, but it took far longer to ensure safety in the case, because the student was not in UO’s international travel and risk management registry.

Each year the UO sends more than 1,200 students abroad, particularly to Europe. Based on 2014-15 data, the top five destinations for most UO students are Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark, and Japan. These figures do not account for independent programs run by UO faculty or students conducting personal internships abroad.  GEO works closely with UO faculty to develop customized study abroad programs built around faculty experience and research experience.  GEO programs include the full range of academic support and emergency response services.

The Offices of Risk Management and International Affairs recommend UO employees traveling abroad on UO business complete the following steps prior to international travel:

First, register travel with the Office of Risk Management; the online registration form provides information necessary if outreach is required.

Next, register travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website and enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives UO travelers the latest security updates, and enables the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact UO travelers in an emergency.  If UO travelers do not have internet access, they may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Finally, consider securing travel insurance coverage through the Office of Risk Management; this can be completed while registering travel online. The cost is minimal and the protection, services and resources provided are significant. .

“For $2 per person per day, coverage includes accident and sickness, security evacuations, emergency medical evacuation and travel assistance,” said Deb Donning, UO’s risk manager.

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About Global Education Oregon (GEO)
GEO is a national study abroad program provider and the UO study abroad office, offering students more than 250 programs in 90 countries. GEO services a network of over 40 colleges and universities throughout the country. Within this network, GEO is a leader in the design, administration, and implementation of targeted academic study abroad programs.