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Studying Abroad Safely

By Melissa Mathies

Tyler Hill was a lively, 16-year-old when he decided to study abroad in Japan in June of 2007. After climbing Mt. Fuji, Tyler complained that he wasn’t feeling well and needed to go to the doctor. The trip leader told him to drink water and go back to his room. Tyler reported vomiting violently for hours.  He was found collapsed on the floor. His heart stopped on arrival at Japanese Red Cross Hospital.  Tyler’s parents were not notified until hours later.  Tyler died from severe dehydration. His death was completely preventable.

Sheryl Hill, Tyler’s mom, started a foundation called ClearCause (www.tylerhill.org) in honor of her son, to try to help prevent people going through the same loss that she has gone through. The well-being of safety for students is not covered well by laws. Students should not be traveling to countries or territories where employees of the United States are not allowed to travel but yet students are being given the opportunity to go there.

ClearCause has helped Minnesota lead the country in transparency laws for those studying abroad. “It’s a beginning. We need to add rape and sexual assault abroad to the reports, too. It’s on us when rape occurs abroad and we fail with Duty to Inform. Students would be so much more transparent if they were empowered to share with their peers. We are working on that,” Hill said.

The foundation saves lives and protects students who choose to study abroad. It helps give them a voice when the program tells them not to tell adults what happened to them.  The foundation also offers a safety check-list for free for students.

“We save lives and protect students abroad with thoughtful tools and education. It’s an honor and a privilege,” Hill says. The resources and information they provide help save lives and keep students safe.

With many study abroad opportunities here at Bemidji State, it’s time we stepped up as a community to make sure we are staying safe. The foundation is trying to raise money to fund a Safe Journey Academy Lifesaver campaign. A $10 dollar donation helps make the dream a reality. Sheryl Hill is asking the Bemidji Beavers to come together and start our own campaign to help the Safe Journey Academy continue to save more lives.

Sheryl also asks that Bemidji Beavers take time out of their day to take a short quiz on www.SafeJourneyAcademy.org. The quiz shows students how little or how much they know about staying safe overseas.

It’s up to us as not only as a campus, but as a nation, to protect our students who are studying abroad. Check out the website, Clearcausedoundation.org, to learn more.