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Exchange Student’s Death Sparks Concerns About Study Abroad

Audio

Aired 3/9/11

San Diego State University students are grieving over the loss of Austin Bice. The 22-year-old exchange student was found in a Madrid river. This is not the first time an SDSU student has died overseas.

San Diego State University students grieved over the loss of Austin Bice. The 22-year-old exchange student was found in a Madrid river. This is not the first time an SDSU student has died overseas.

SDSU officials said Bice is the first exchange student to have gone missing and then turned-up dead. They said another student died in a drowning accident in east Asia nearly a decade ago.

Despite those two cases, officials said exchange students typically return without any problems.

More than 1,400 SDSU students take their education across borders, making it one of the top study-abroad campuses in California.

University officials said students go through two orientations which cover safety and security. Topics include letting their host family or advisor know where they are at all times, keeping a low profile and walking with friends.

“Here in the States, I don't go anywhere alone,” said Christine Jennings, an SDSU student and one of Bice’s friends. “Even though you think you’re safe or it is OK to walk somewhere alone, don’t do it.”

Many study abroad students say going out at night and meeting new people is just as important as hitting the books.

As a result, more academic institutions overseas are doing more to keep a closer watch on exchange students. But for the most part, students are still largely responsible of their own safety.

“The message here would be it can happen to everyone and anyone no matter where they are in world,” said Negar Davis, director of SDSU’s International Student Center. “Things unfortunately do happen but the best thing (exchange students) can do is be aware of (their) new surrounding and environment.”

SDSU officials said despite the tragedy, the Madrid study abroad program is not likely to be suspended.

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