College study abroad programs on alert after ISIS beheadings

By Scott Johnson - Reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The second beheading of an American journalist in the Middle East is sending shockwaves around the globe, and politicians in our nation's capital say the threat of ISIS could be spreading beyond Syria and Iraq where the beheadings have happened.

"I think the president has been honest and direct about what our goals are, and I think we're making some progress," said Sen. Bob Casy, D-Penn. "But, we have to continue to be vigilant, because this threat is not simply a threat to the region. I think it's beyond the region now."

Because of that, experts say, Americans traveling abroad need to be on alert.

Timothy Robinson runs the International Center at the University of North Florida, which coordinates UNF's study abroad programs. He said UNF students don't travel to Iraq or Syria, but the school will be on alert if there are any threats from ISIS beyond the Middle East.

"Things can happen in New York or Jacksonville. Things can happen in London," Robinson said. "We would allow students to go to London, but we would tell them how to avoid places. Don't go to places where they can be victims of a crime."

Robinson says they teach students in foreign countries to always be aware of where they travel and encourage safety tips like always travel in pairs.

"All those students who do go abroad that go through our process, we have them attend a safety session, which is mandatory. If they don't attend the safety session, they don't go abroad," Robinson said. "And at that session we talk with them about health safety -- eating the right types of food so they don't get sick -- enrolling with the state department so that they know where you are if you lose your passport abroad."

UNF officials said they're very selective about where their students go, and they currently have no students anywhere where there are active terrorist threats.

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