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Mom wants more transparency about risks for study abroad programs

Updated: May 11, 2018


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - She's on a mission to improve student safety.

Chalene Braun's daughter Kassie, died while exploring the world on scholarship. Chalene says her loss shows an urgent need for more transparency about the risks to student safety.

Last November, Kassie was in the middle of embracing the people, the places, the cultures of the world. Through the Semester at Sea program, she was to visit ten countries on four continents in 106 days.

It was the voyage of a lifetime for the Cathedral graduate and student from St. Edward's University. Kassie was a seasoned traveler, with an exuberant spirit to explore.

"Part of this whole tragic story is she was in such a beautiful place. She was in such a beautiful part of the world and she was loving every minute of it," Chalene said. "She was always planning her next adventure."

But she never completed this one. During their stop in Myanmar, Kassie died after an accidental fall while climbing an ancient pagoda.

"She was just standing there and the rocks gave way. The bricks gave way. She fell 35-40 feet," Braun said.

A hospital, her mom later learned, was many hours away. Kassie died in an ambulance.

Chalene Braun says if she'd known about the distance to medical care, her daughter never would have gotten off the ship on that stop.

"Truly, my daughter's life would not have ended on a bumpy road, a bumpy dirt road, in the middle of nowhere Myanmar," Braun said.

Kassie's mom now wants to help keep other students safe. She says study abroad programs aren't transparent enough about the risks. Her daughter, for example, did get a safety sheet.

But Braun worries it's not specific enough.

"This gives a false sense of security and I didn't even look at these green sheets because it was only provided to my daughter," Braun said. "The bad part of it, is it wasn't complete information and it wasn't transparent in that the hospital listed on that sheet is 8-10 hours away from Bagan."

Braun says to honor her daughter's love for travel, she wants to partner with Semester at Sea to make changes and give families more information to prepare and evaluate risk. Until then, she's issuing a warning to parents, so that students who love to explore, like Kassie, can do so safely.

"I just want to caution all parents who are considering travel for their kids: let them go. But do your homework," she said.

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