International education in the time of crisis

International education in the time of crisis

With the most recent terror attacks in Turkey and France, some higher education institutions are perhaps rethinking their plans to send students to other countries to study or do internships. For others, it is business as usual. So what is the prudent decision for international educators? The author of today’s blog post has written for the EAIE previously on issues of crisis management. In this blog post, she offers some food for thought and confirms the importance of the work done by professionals in international education.

The truth of the matter is that no amount of due diligence can prevent being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are issues that we can scout out to identify safety risks: lodging, transportation, unsafe areas of cities that should not be explored at night, etc. Yet attacks in shopping malls, churches, sports arenas, entertainment centres or public transportation are not predictable safety risks. These are the thread of everyday life and, unfortunately, incidents in these venues are happening all around the world.

A different kind of challenge

Take, for instance, the attack in Bangladesh where students enrolled at American universities were killed while dining at a restaurant in Dhaka – only one of them held American citizenship. The other two were studying abroad while enrolled at an American university. There are also the cases of students who died in Nice, Italy and Egypt.
Study abroad is meant to be a challenge to students, but it is certainly not meant to be deadly. Given the dangers inherent in travel or study in countries where there continues to be instability, it seems reasonable to rethink whether or not to send students into those zones. Yet in other and cities countries, with stable governments and strong police forces, study abroad continues – eg Paris, London, Madrid and Brussels.

International understanding

As international educators, our risk management roles are, unfortunately, becoming more necessary as we sift through information from many sources in order to make the best possible decisions for our students and institutions. It’s important to remember that remaining at home is no safer than studying in another country. Unsettling incidents know no borders in this day and age.
We may need to increase our strategic planning for the ‘what ifs’ and strive to make our students more aware of the world around them and its dangers, but we must also encourage them to live and learn in another culture. This the best way to further international understanding, so that our students may take their place in the world as ambassadors for peace and international cooperation.
Regine is CEO and Head Consultant at International Education Consulting, USA.