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OIS prepares students for abroad

Katie Peralta | Thursday, November 15, 2007

Before the next wave of Notre Dame students leave to study abroad in January and February, the Office of International Studies (OIS) wants to make sure they understand the laws of their new country.

OIS program coordinator Lesley Sullivan said students are required to read and sign documents acknowledging that they will abide by the laws of the country in which they will study.

“Students must be aware [of their country’s laws],” Sullivan said. “For example, public intoxication is illegal in most countries.”

Sullivan, who has been director of the study abroad programs in Angers, Bologna, Russia, Berlin and Rome’s Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies since the summer of 2004, organized a program for women to discuss safety and health while living abroad. “Women and Study Abroad” addresses five areas: cultural cues and miscues, personal health and safety, emotional health, alcohol and self-defense.

The program features presentations and testimonials from previous study abroad students. In addition, student representatives from PILLARS (Peers Inspiring, Listening, Learning and Responsible Socializing) come to discuss issues with students drinking overseas.

While rules in other countries regarding drinking may differ from those in the United States, Sullivan said she has never encountered drinking-related problems with students studying abroad.

Personal safety is a topic discussed in great detail in the program, Sullivan said. Students are sometimes the victims of theft while abroad, she said.

The meeting is required for women studying abroad, Sullivan said, but students studying in Washington are also invited to attend.

Another safeguard for students studying in foreign countries is the emergency information card the OIS office issues students, said Kathleen Opel, the associate director of International Studies Programs and director of programs in Tokyo, Beijing, Nagoya, Shanghai and Rome. The card includes numbers for the police, ambulances, taxis, the U.S. Embassy and an SOS number that connects directly to the Notre Dame Security/Police.

Students are advised to use this card if they get in trouble with the law, have medical emergencies, or in the case of a terror attack, Opel said.

The University is in no position to bail students out of jail or engage in any other legal matter, she said. Sullivan also said that Notre Dame does not get involved in cases of stolen passports, which are a legal issue.

“[Students] are bound by the laws of the country [in which they are studying],” Opel said.

If a student faces legal trouble, the U.S. Embassy sends a representative to the jail to speak with him. Then, Opel said, the Embassy notifies the student’s parents, guardians or anyone else the student might want to contact.

Opel said she has never had any significant legal troubles with students studying abroad.

“Our students do a good job with behaving themselves,” Opel said.