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CSU keeps students safe during study abroad trips

October 27, 2011

By Chrissy Niehaus

For years, students of Cleveland State have been participating in taking their studies overseas and during the 2010-2011 school year alone, as many as 160 students traveled to more than 15 different countries to study and learn the culture.

On Nov. 2, 2007, British exchange student Meredith Kercher was found dead in the cottage she shared with two other young women studying abroad in Italy. Four days later, former University of Washington student Amanda Knox was arrested for Kercher’s murder, along with Knox’s then boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito.

After spending four years in Italian prisons, Knox and Sollecito were acquitted on appeal on Oct. 3. Knox promptly returned home to Seattle and to her family, a former study abroad student who had spent the last four years of her life gaining a different kind of education.

From a college student studying abroad being murdered to another student being found initially guilty of said crime, the question of the safety of all students studying overseas is one to be asked.

Education Abroad at CSU is dedicated to enhancing the cultural experiences of students through traveling to and experiencing other countries firsthand.

In Knox’s case, she studied independently and the apartment in which she lived had no supervision. With CSU students, participants are required to go through a centralized process to maintain a level of structure and close ties to both CSU and the partnering host, if necessary.

“The majority of CSU students who study abroad take part in short-term group study programs where there is full time faculty supervision,” said George Burke, director of the Center for International Services and Programs at CSU. “These are highly structured programs.”

While CSU ensures the supervision of student participants, Burke says that UW has since changed their own policies to require students to go through a centralized process if they enroll independently.

Gabriella Tomaro, a CSU graduate student who studied in Italy twice, says that her perception of the program has not differed since the Amanda Knox trial and ordeal surrounding it.

“It didn’t taint my image of studying abroad there at all,” Tomaro said. “[Knox] created her experience by partying too much and hanging out with sketchy people.”

Hours after Knox’s return to her family in Seattle, her father Curt Knox was asked if he had any advice for parents who wish to send their children to study abroad. His response was that parents should have a plan if something of this nature were to occur.

For CSU students who study abroad, the experience is what they each make of it. Given that it is supposed to be about education and furthering their personal knowledge of the culture, each student is expected to take advantage of their situation and soak up the knowledge around them.

“People choose to do what they want when they’re abroad,” Tomaro said.