By Sarah Larke
Given the recent cases of missing and killed Canadian travellers, Humber’s International Centre is likely under some pressure to keep students safe.
Humber “wants to know where you are and how they can keep track of you while you’re gone,” said Humber student Elle Côté. “They want to keep tabs on us, they want to know we’re safe.”
Côté, a fourth-year student, has travelled abroad twice during her schooling at Humber.
International travel has become riskier as Canadians have made news recently for ominous incidents. Canadian Edith Blais and her Italian companion Luca Tacchetto have been missing in Burkina Faso since December, and Canadian Kirk Woodman was found dead there this month.
“This is a terrible crime and Canada is absolutely committed to working with the authorities in Burkina Faso to bring those responsible to justice,” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement released by the Canadian Press when Woodman’s body was found earlier in January.
According to Humber’s website, more than 500 students go abroad for a semester or placement every year, and the International Centre works closely with students to ensure they stay safe. Although the countries Humber offers programs in are generally considered safe, there are always risks.
“We have a travel registry and any student who leaves the province has to complete it, so we know where they’re staying, that they have the proper visas, that their passports won’t expire,” said Ashley Tinoco, International Mobility Coordinator at Humber.
Côté went to England for a semester in 2017 and completed her internship in Kenya in 2018.
“There was lots of planning in advance,” she said about her England trip. “It’s very detailed, very gradual in terms of what they’re teaching you, and I felt fully prepared.”
Côté said she planned her trip to Kenya more independently, but Humber offered her help and gave her information about travel advisories and safety.
“I knew they were there if I needed them. On top of that too, they were just very encouraging and excited,” she said.
Tinoco said students meet frequently with advisors before they leave for a semester or placement abroad. They also prepare students for different safety scenarios, such as losing their passport.
“We go through what the most important next steps are. Or if a critical incident happens and they have to go to hospital, we go through what those next steps are,” she said.
Overall, Côté said her experience travelling through Humber was one she would recommend to other students, and despite the risks, she never felt unsafe or unprepared.
“I know it’s so cliché, but they really were there every step of the way in preparing me for my trip,” she said. “And as a result, I can’t picture it having gone any smoother than it did.”