WASHINGTON D.C. – Beth O’Quinn says that studying abroad and discovering new cultures and ways of life is one of the most influential and enlightening experiences a student can have.
But O’Quinn, who is the director of experiential learning at Foxcroft School, a girls boarding school in Middleburg, Virginia, says that safety is the most important consideration of sending students from her school overseas.
“Safety always comes first,” O’Quinn said.
“We have a ratio system for every trip that we take,” she continued. “For every six girls, there are two teachers or chaperones who attend as well. So if there is a total of 12 girls on the trip, then there will be four chaperones in total as well.”
When most parents consider allowing their child to explore a different country, the first thing that comes to mind is the health and safety precautions that are put into action.
Kimberly Turner of Washington D.C. says in an interview that when she went to Edinburgh, Scotland her senior year of high school, “The teachers went above and beyond to ensure that we were all healthy and safe by regularly checking in with us and having groups of us being assigned to different chaperones. I did not once feel unsafe on that trip because the chaperones were organized and always on top of everything.”
David Larsen, who is the director of the Beaver College Center for Education Abroad, states that he requires the students he sends to Belfast, Ireland to be driven through the most dangerous parts of that city so that they are clearly informed of what places to avoid.
O’Quinn also stated in a recent interview that students have to fulfill certain health requirements deeming that there will be no health issues that will be exacerbated by going overseas or that will hinder their overall experience.
It is also essential that students be given the proper vaccinations depending on what country they will be visiting.
Sometimes, school leaders must also account for a country’s political issues when deciding if students should go.
O’Quinn said that one trip to South Africa in 2016 coincided with elections there. It was cancelled because of upheaval and violence at the time.
Even though the city, Johannesburg, that the students would have been staying in was deemed safe, she said it was better to err on the side of caution.