Warnings jeopardize Middle East programs

Officials say a war could affect other study abroad programs.

Elizabeth Dunbar

University students looking for study abroad programs in the Middle East won’t have much luck if the U.S. State Department issues more travel warnings, study abroad representatives said Wednesday at the University.

“Because of the uncertainties there right now, we have to take a more conservative approach,” said Hanna Thurber, an admissions counselor for the Vermont-based School for International Training, at the International Opportunities Fair.

Thurber and Eero Jesurun, a representative for the Council on International Educational Exchange, said their organizations canceled programs in Jordan this semester.

“We hope to run it again in the fall, but we have to really wait and see what happens over there,” Thurber said.

Thurber said her organization called off its program before any students arrived and allowed students to transfer to other programs.

Jesurun said the decision to cancel the program involved several people but had to do with the possible war in Iraq, which borders Jordan.

“We got together and decided it didn’t make sense to have Americans there if there’s going to be a war and we’ll have to pull them out anyway,” Jesurun said.

A war could affect other study abroad programs, Jesurun said, but students asking questions about programs Wednesday didn’t seem to be concerned.

“No one has asked about the war or how that might affect study abroad,” he said. “I guess people don’t necessarily see that as an obstacle.”

Amy Greeley, a Global Campus program associate, said despite the canceled programs in Jordan, a few students are waiting to hear about the situation for the fall.

“We still have students interested, and it’s because they want to learn Arabic,” Greeley said.

One way for students to do that, Greeley said, is to study in Turkey with the international education council’s program that offers Arabic courses.

Though few students asked about Middle East programs Wednesday, Greeley said she thinks students’ interest in the Middle East has increased.

“I think people are starting to get more interested in that part of the world, but it’s just not possible to go there now because of the way things are escalating,” she said.

Greeley said Global Campus makes decisions about its programs after consulting with a variety of people, such as officials from the U.S. State Department, site program directors and University faculty familiar with the locations.

“Sometimes the faculty members here on campus can give us good advice as to whether things are safe,” Greeley said.

Global Campus associate director Lynn Anderson said the office decided to cancel its program to Merida, Venezuela, this semester after reviewing State Department warnings and advice from staff in Venezuela.

“We always err on the side of safety, while not wanting to interrupt students’ plans,” she said.

Elizabeth Dunbar covers international affairs and welcomes comments at [email protected]