TCU looks to keep students safe while studying abroad

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TCU’s study abroad program encourages students “to live like locals.” Now, the university is adding resources to help- all on your cell phone. 

Alert Traveler helps students immerse themselves into wherever they are by introducing them to their locale.

The travel insurance plan assists students and their families if there’s a health crisis and alerts them to safety concerns. 

Alert Traveler helps students keep up with emergency situations while abroad. Source: Alert Traveler

“Students are strongly encouraged to download the app about a month before the trip,” said Kimberly Spragg, program coordinator of health, safety and operations in the center for international studies.

Additionally, the app provides security alerts, emergency phone numbers and even has a GPS tracking system that, if turned on, can locate students. Students can also mark themselves “safe” if a major threat occurs where they are.

Some students who are abroad this semester are trying it out. 

“They are our guinea pigs,” Spragg said. “Everything has been smooth sailing so far, but if students don’t have their GPS turned on when they deviate from their itinerary, we don’t know exactly where they are.” 

On Call International travel insurance also assists with security issues, though its primary function is to help students who are ill or injured. It’s supposed to find the best possible options in terms of health and security issues. 

“Students have been in the hospital, and On Call will literally fly a parent out so they can be with their child,” Spragg said. “It’s been a really good resource.”

Jenna Quirk, a junior business major, said she received notifications of nearby threats via email when she was studying in London this past summer. 

“They would alert us of any dangers going on around us by sending us emails,” Quirk said. “It was honestly really effective and helpful.”

Tori Hatch, a senior marketing and business information systems major, said the service was helpful when one of her classmates fell ill while they were in Madrid in the spring. His intestines twisted, and he needed emergency surgery, she said.

Tori Hatch poses with her study abroad group in Madrid, Spain last spring. Courtesy of Tori Hatch

“Healthcare is pretty much free in Madrid, but On Call made sure he was taken care of properly,” Hatch said. “I would have been really scared if we didn’t have a resource like that to help us.”