The UW Global Travel Security program was established to facilitate safe and successful global travel for UW students and employees.
The Office of Global Affairs (OGA) welcomes the program’s new manager, Ben Sommers, this October. As global travel slowly returns, vaccinations increase and new challenges arise, Ben’s leadership will be integral to informing and supporting our global travelers as they navigate a quickly-changing travel landscape.
Ben has almost a decade of experience managing international programs for students and global travelers. He joins us from 4-H International Exchange Programs where he was a Senior Program Manager. A husky undergraduate alum, Ben has dual Masters degrees: in International Communication from American University and Korean Studies from Korea University.
Q: What are you bringing to your new role here at UW?
I have been fortunate to have had a diversity of professional and personal experiences that have underlined the value of international travel. I think there is a great deal of truth in the adage that you never get to know your own cultures until you leave them behind. After a year plus of restricted travel, we are all eager to get back out and have the types of transformative travel experiences that we’ve put on hold. Apart from my professional and academic experiences, I think the most relevant piece I bring to the role is the firm belief in the transformative power of international travel and the importance of growing UW’s connections with the global community.
Q: What do you look forward to as you begin your new position?
Current International Travel Policy
Revised rules for official international travel have been issued for all travelers.
I am very excited to be back at UW, especially at such a significant moment as the university community returns to campus. In a general sense, our world is also progressing towards reopening and it has been energizing to see limitations on travel being lifted and so many of our faculty, staff and students getting back out into the world. It has also been particularly inspiring to get a small glimpse into the various ways that the UW community is bringing their curiosity, adventurousness and expertise to their projects around the globe. I look forward to collaborating with university stakeholders in supporting and advocating for international travel as a critical form of global engagement.
Q: As you connect with students, faculty and staff here at UW, how can your own history of travel and studying abroad help you?
As I mentioned above, I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see a sliver of the world. When reflecting on the trajectory of my life and career, I can definitively point to the undergraduate exchange program I participated in as a transformative moment in my life. I spent half a year at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. As a Korean adoptee, those six months deepened a feeling of curiosity I had in a place that I felt so inextricably connected to, but yet also incredibly uninformed about. I later built on that experience by doing a dual degree exchange program as graduate student at American University, jumping at the opportunity to complete a second degree program back in Seoul at Korea University.
Beyond studying abroad, my personal and professional travel have acted as sort of mile markers in my life. They have been experiences that have been sometimes humbling, sometimes thrilling, but always educational and informative. I think many students, faculty and staff at UW, regardless of the depth of their travel histories, have experienced the same range of impacts during their adventures abroad. Beyond feeling motivated to help enable more travelers have productive and meaningful experiences, I hope to be a resource that helps our traveling community feel supported by an on-campus office.
Q: What do you see as the key role of the UW’s Global Travel Security Program?
I think the Global Travel Security Program’s ultimate role is to help facilitate travel and to advocate for the university’s global engagement efforts. The presence of the university abroad on any given day is considerable so the Global Travel Security Program helps to ensure that those travelers are supported by being connected to the vast resources that they may need to access prior to, during or post-travel.
There are highly regarded subject matter experts on just about everything and everywhere here at UW. The Global Travel Security Program and myself hope to be a collaborative partner in preparation for international travel. It goes without saying that the international travel landscape is particularly complex at this moment so hopefully we can help travelers to decode and untangle those complexities and ensure that the intersection between university policy and country or regional regulations does not pose challenges to the critical work being done around the world.
Q: How can UW global travelers connect with you as they plan their research, service, or study abroad?
I really do hope to connect with you all! My office is housed in the Office of Global Affairs in Gerberding Hall. Please feel free to reach out via email (email@example.com) or by phone (206.616.7927). The general resources available on the Office of Global Affairs website is also a great starting point for travel planning. You can find information on travel registration, insurance and emergency assistance.