Education, awareness important when studying abroad


David McDonald, senior film production major, had $170 stolen from his debit card while studying abroad in Cha-Am, Thailand in the spring of 2012. His card was swiped through a “skimmer” at an ATM off campus. A skimmer is a device that is attached to ATMs that can read and capture information on the magnetic strip of debit cards. McDonald said six of his friends were also victims of theft.

Dan Pesold, director of public safety said students should educate themselves on the country they will be visiting. He said it’s helpful to create an outline of personal protection measures. “They should know what they’re going to do, -should they be a victim of a crime.”

Pesold said he doesn’t hear of crimes from other Webster locations frequently. He said they don’t get involved unless a Webster home campus student or staff member is involved.

Inaccurate Crime Reports

Crime reports from 2009-2011 for Webster campuses in Leiden, Vienna, and Geneva say local police were unable to provide information required by federal law. That law -The Clery Act- forces schools to record crime on and around campus. The 2012 Clery Report for Leiden, which covers crime from 2009-2011, showed five total crimes on-campus. Webster University locations in Vienna and Geneva showed one crime for the three years. Zero crimes were shown off campus.

Institutions are supposed to reveal crime reported to the local police on their Clery Reports. The exception is if the school makes reasonable effort to obtain the information, as written in the Code of Federal Regulations. The school is not responsible for failure of the local police to relay crime reports.

Guillermo Rodríguez, director of study abroad, said no crime has been reported to him from another Webster location since he joined Webster University. He said foreign campuses are safe for students. “We have the same general safety procedures,” Rodríguez said. “We are one university. We have the same policies regardless of where we are.” Rodríguez said public safety officers are trained to handle situations specific to their location.

An adviser is assigned to each student studying abroad, Rodríguez said. He said the adviser informs the student about how to stay safe in that particular country.

McDonald said students should listen to their advisers. He said he was warned not to ride in motorcycle taxis in Thailand. McDonald didn’t listen and he went for a ride and thought he was going to die.

“I did, however, go on a couple of motorcycle taxis, because they’re cheaper when you are by yourself,” McDonald said. “I survived, yay.”

Courtney Turner, senior advertising and marketing communications major, said she felt safe her entire stay in Geneva, Switzerland, in the spring of 2012. She said she was impressed by the campus’s safety precautions.

The activities director at the Geneva campus gave Turner a memorable speech on safety. She said the speech explained how crime happens and just because it’s a different country doesn’t mean that safety is not an issue. Pesold said as long as he has been at Webster, he hasn’t heard of any safety complaints abroad. He said the reports typically stay in that country.

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