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Carpe Diem, Study Abroad

Simone Johnson, Columnist

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Earlier this semester, 55 students traveled to Italy through Trinity College’s Study Abroad program. Among the 5 students from Bates College in Maine was John Durkin.  The 21 year old from Rye Beach, NH was a junior economics major, Asian studies minor a linebacker on the college’s football team.

On Feb. 20, Durkin went missing after he and a group of friends went to Sloppy Sams, a bar in the Campo de Fiori section of Rome.

“It is with much sadness that the Durkin family informs you of the loss of John Nolen Durkin,” a relative wrote on a Facebook event page, “and thanks everyone for their support during the past few days.”

Durkin’s body was found in a rail road tunnel; he was reportedly hit by a train. Italian authorities have not released anymore details surrounding his death.

“This is a heartbreaking moment for our community and for so many people who knew and loved John,” Bates College said in a released statement, “we are profoundly sad and share the tremendous grief of his family”.

Durkin’s football coach, Mark Harriman, also remembered him “the Bates football family is deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and teammate John Durkin. John’s commitment to excellence in all phases of his life was inspirational to the other members of the squad and a major factor in the team’s success over the past three years.”

Trinity College as well as Bates College are offering counseling to their students.

Safety is a top priority while studying, volunteering or working abroad. Going abroad is about discovery and exploration, it’s important to have a fun, transformational experience. However, it is also equally important for students to stay safe and make wise decisions.

Many school websites and study abroad articles encourage students to thoroughly research the country he or she will travel to and take time to learn about the culture, customs, laws, history and current social and political issues in and around the country. Reviewing travel blogs and forums like Thorn Tree on Lonely Planet or Trip Advisor are also helpful.

While abroad, students should be aware of their surroundings and review a map of the specific location, country and region they will be staying in. Taking time to find out local emergency numbers, police stations, hospitals, nearest cab companies and the location of and contact information for U.S. Embassies and consults in the area will also be beneficial to the student’s experience.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), is a service provided by the U.S. government. Students who sign up will “automatically receive the most current information we compile about the country where you will be traveling or living. You will also receive updates, including Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts”.

Important travel documents like valid passports, visas, forms of identification, airplane tickets, credit cards, driver’s license, itineraries and health insurance should be kept in a safe place. During the preparation process make two photo copies of the documents, one copy for yourself and one for a parent/guardian or friend in case they are lost or stolen. A student can also scan the documents and e-mail them to him or herself.

Students are urged to embrace study abroad as an opportunity to explore, learn and grow, however, within the context of safety and wise decision making.

Emily Ramos, senior hospitality and tourism management major, shared a study abroad tip after returning from Semester at Sea last semester.

“Some tips I would give are to join any social media groups that the school has to connect with students and share similar feeling and thoughts before getting there,” Ramos said. “When I was abroad I sent a postcard to myself from every country or city I was in as a way to document what I did in the place and then being able to relive it when I get home and anytime after that. I would also suggest to anyone traveling to keep a journal of the memories you make and the connections you have along the way because looking back that is what makes your trip so amazing! Last but not least, I would advise someone studying abroad to forget who they are at home, do things you would never do back home, befriend people who you would normally ignore at home because everyone has an amazing story to tell and that’s what makes the experience so special”.

Visit http://studentsabroad.state.gov/ for a more, in-depth look into safety precautions and being prepared before going abroad.

If you have studied aboard and would like to offer other students study abroad and travel related tips please e-mail [email protected] with your name, major, study abroad program and tip.  

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