Courtesy of MCT
The recent decision to retry American student Amanda Knox for the 2007 killing of her roommate might serve as a reminder for some college students about the importance of university study abroad and exchange program safety.
Italy’s highest court overturned the acquittals of both Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, her then-boyfriend, for the death of British student Meredith Kercher. The ruling that came March 26 gave rise to the re-emergence of media hype surrounding the prolonged international legal battle and to Knox, now a 25-year-old University of Washington student living in Seattle.
Maureen E. Miller, director of communications for the OSU Office of International Affairs, said the department website extensively lists international travel safety tips for students.
“Know the local laws. Laws and systems of justice are not universal. You are subject to the laws of the host country while abroad,” the department website said.
The Court of Cassation, Italy’s final court of appeal, accepted retrial requests from prosecutors and Kercher’s family last week. Unlike the United States, Italy does not have “double jeopardy” laws that protect a defendant from being tried twice for the same crime.
Knox’ lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova told The New York Times his client was sad when she heard of the retrial.
“She believed the nightmare was over,” he said.
Liz Thomas, a third-year in marketing who studied abroad in Switzerland last semester, said besides a few robberies in her dormitory, she felt safe while traveling and living internationally.
“I think as long as you keep a level head and don’t put yourself in bad situations, it’s easier to avoid trouble,” Thomas said. “I traveled to Rome by myself once, and I did have that idea in the back of my head … but I felt prepared for what was ahead and had an understanding of the culture and how to interact.”
Knox was convicted in 2009 for Kercher’s murder after the 21-year-old was found dead with stab wounds to her throat in the apartment they shared in Perugia, Italy, where both women were participating in yearlong study abroad programs.
After serving four years of her 26-year sentence, Knox was acquitted and returned to America in 2011.
Madison Herman, a third-year in English, studied in Ireland and said she felt adequately prepared by OSU to live abroad.
“We had a lot of teaching prior to going abroad that went over a lot of things like keeping your cell phone in a different pocket, not walking around at night on the phone – different things like that,” Herman said. “We hung out a lot with the locals and different people, but I never felt like I was in danger or unsafe at any point.”
Other safety study abroad tips from the university include blending in with surroundings, meeting friends in public places, adopting an attitude of watchfulness and knowing basic help phrases in the local language.
According to several press outlets and Knox’s lawyer, she has no plans to return to Italy for the retrial, which has no official start date yet. If convicted a second time, Italy could seek extradition against Knox.