Columbia University

Global Travel

Traveler Feedback: Caitlin Burk

When Caitlin Burk, a 2012 Columbia College alumna, needed to evacuate Egypt during the 2011 political unrest, she made it home safely due to the support she received from International SOS (ISOS), the Columbia Office of Global Programs, and the Columbia Public Safety team.

“My family and I are deeply appreciative of the help Columbia provided during and after my evacuation from my study abroad program,” she said.

Burk was only in Cairo for about a week when the Egyptian Revolution began, and she knew she needed to come home.

“I contacted Columbia Public Safety, who got me in touch with ISOS,” she said.

Over the next few days, ISOS chartered a flight out of Egypt and helped Burk arrange flights the whole way home to North Carolina.

“They also arranged hotel accommodations for me both in Cairo, near the airport, and in Paris, where I had a layover,” she said.

Burk recalls two options for evacuating the country: the State Department and ISOS. While she acknowledged the State Department’s ability to keep citizens informed, Burk said it seemed to get overwhelmed quickly by the sheer number of people in need of evacuation. In addition, the State Department could only guarantee Burk a flight to Turkey, after which she would be on her own.

“I appreciated the ISOS service because I did not have to make arrangements on my own during a situation which was not only stressful, but during which I had no access to the Internet,” she said.

Burk said she is grateful that ISOS, the Columbia Office of Global Programs, and Public Safety not only assisted her in a time of need, but also helped her get back on track when she returned to Columbia.

“Members of the offices were available essentially 24/7 during the few days my evacuation was being arranged, and they also kept my family in the loop about what was going on,” she said. “My study abroad advisor and my major advisor met with me the evening I returned to the country to help me pick out classes – which they had pre-selected as manageable to catch up in –  so that I could return to Columbia for the semester.”