“Let’s be honest, telling family and friends you are going on an internship is far better than saying you are going just to see the world.” Writer Alexandra Villarreal quotes an intern in an article she authored for The New York Times “Stranger in a Strange Land: An Internship Gone Bad.”

For Alexandra, the end of the story is not catastrophic.  She found herself in compromising situations amidst cocaine, marijuana, illegal behaviors, and a stranger in her bedroom.  She decided to stop feeling ‘unsafe’ and cut her internship short. She reports she had to eat the cost of her flight, but was reimbursed for about three fourths of her tuition.  Lucky her.

ClearCause often hears about internships which sound more like labor trafficking; long arduous 12-15 hour days, six days a week, without pay at a price tag sometimes upward of $10-20,000.  Make no mistake about it, the student travel industry abroad is a massive $250+ Billion self-regulated behemoth.  The World Youth Student Travel Confederation has been inviting ‘you to tap into this lucrative market’ on their website for years.  Head ‘em up! Move ‘em out! Rake it in!  Youth and their families are often left to their own resources when trips go bad.

Ms. Villarreal writes, “Opportunities can turn into opportunities for disaster when students blindly leap into situations in foreign countries.”  Sadly, internships can be over-priced, over-promised and under-performed.  Bright and studious youth often fall for the pitches programs make.

Even in America, foreign students are often enticed into situations where they can be sex-trafficked or become victims of slave labor.  US Department of State has the authority to sanction programs placing foreign students at risk in America.  CETUSA is one provider US Department of State sanctioned for exploiting J1 Visa student workers.  Pacific Intercultural Exchange is another provider US Department of State sanctioned for sexual abuse.  Similar protections for US students abroad are non-existent.

A blog article titled “The Need for a United Nations Declaration of the Rights of International Students” states, “International students suffer discrimination in housing and in the provision of services, threats to personal safety and security, and other human rights abuses at the hands of private individuals (including other students), educational institutions, and government officials.”  The saddest part of that statement is no federal laws are investigating or putting an end to it.

ClearCause is working on that.  Until then, investigate deeply, stay informed with our newsletter, download our checklist and safety app, and contact us for a Student Abroad Safety Assessment, as low as $25 developed by global safety advisors to help youth and students experience a life-changing experience in a positive way. Safety means the world to our youth on programs abroad, our youth mean the world to us.

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