US students ‘take more risks while studying abroad’

Universities told to mitigate dangers by providing pre-travel training to students

January 22, 2016
Group of women drinking through straws from bucket
Source: Alamy

US students engage in riskier behaviour, such as using drugs and drinking dangerous levels of alcohol, while studying abroad, according to a new study that argues that universities should take more responsibility for student safety.

A survey of 1,000 current or recent university students who studied abroad within the past two years found that half of those who drink consumed more alcohol while abroad and one in nine (11 per cent) said that they “blacked out” from drinking more frequently when in a foreign country than when in the US.

On Call International, a travel risk management company that carried out the study, said that the findings call into question universities’ duty of care for students when planning study opportunities abroad.

The survey also found that one in nine students (11 per cent) tried an illegal drug for the first time, while 29 per cent used drugs abroad. US students abroad also “often seek casual hookups”, according to the report, with almost a third (32 per cent) of students reporting that they engaged in romantic encounters with strangers abroad.

One in five students said that they accepted a car ride from a local stranger who was not a professional taxi or Uber driver, while 11 per cent said that they had been detained by law enforcement while studying abroad.

More than 30 per cent of students admitted to lying to their parents about their activities when studying abroad.

Jim Hutton, chief security officer at On Call International, said that universities should introduce “mandatory pre-travel training sessions for any students who are heading overseas, as it is the institutions’ responsibility to ensure student safety”.

“In unfamiliar situations, risky behaviours like drinking, drug use and going home with a stranger take on a new level of risk. Students who don’t understand their limits could injure themselves or others, or be arrested by law enforcement for their actions and removed from their study abroad programmes,” he said.

“In addition, young college students can be an easy target for theft or other crimes, and are especially vulnerable when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

ellie.bothwell@tesglobal.com

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