Local News

Parents upset UNC kicked daughter out of study abroad program

Posted September 16, 2009
Updated September 17, 2009

— A Raleigh man said he plans to meet with University of North Carolina officials after his daughter was dismissed from her study abroad program and was left to fend for herself on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa.

Alyssa Valdez, a senior business major at UNC-Chapel Hill, went to South Africa for a semester to boost her chances of landing a job in international business, said her parents, Luis and Merribeth Valdez.

She spent two weeks in Cape Town, touring the mountains and even walking with penguins, but she was kicked out of the program  without warning before classes started, her parents said.

They said a professor accused the girl of breaking the code of conduct and told her she had to leave.

"She woke Alyssa up, and she basically threatened Alyssa and told her (that), if she did not pack her stuff immediately, she was going to contact the police and have her thrown out," Merribeth Valdez said.

Luis Valdez said his daughter was accused of excessive partying and allowing a man to stay after hours at the house for UNC students. A man did slept on a couch at the house, Merribeth Valdez said, but the couple said they don't think their daughter did anything wrong.

Parents upset UNC kicked daughter out of study abroad program Parents: Daughter dropped from study abroad

Alyssa Valdez signed a code of ethics before taking the trip.

“Based on the information we have at this time, the on-site faculty adviser made safe accommodations available to the student and offered additional assistance, which the student declined," UNC spokesewoman Karen Moon said in a release Wednesday. "Federal privacy laws preclude us from providing further detail, but our preliminary review of the facts about this situation indicates that this matter was handled appropriately."

Lyn Gullan, the mother of two UNC students who lives on the outskirts of Cape Town, said she took Alyssa Valdez in for a few days until she could arrange for a flight back to North Carolina.

Gullan said Cape Town is notorious for its high rate of violent crimes, and she said she was appalled that a female college student was left on the streets of the city with her packed bags, without any UNC officials checking on her well-being before she left the country.

"She would have been the ultimate target for Cape Town crime," Gullan said in an e-mail provided to WRAL News by Luis Valdez. "What is worse is that a university of high standing such as UNC allowed this to happen."

The Valdezes echoed Gullan's concerns and said they hope to address the issue next week in meetings with UNC President Erskine Bowles and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp.

"Alyssa was left out there on the streets of South Africa," Merribeth Valdez said. "She could have been raped. She could have been murdered – killed – and no one cared. All we got were e-mails."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • forgivenbyJesus Sep 18, 2009

    To all people that love to comment on badly written articles and probably don't have kids.
    The main point to parents is that all public state funded universities need to re-look at study abroad programs. Parents trust that responsible people are in charge and the reality is that existing policies and procedures are not sufficient to insure a students safety. I thank God that no one was hurt this time. Parents make sure you review the study abroad policies and demand that you are copied on all actions pertaining to your students.

  • lorivalentine1 Sep 17, 2009

    While I agree that the student was 100% at fault for breaking the rules, the college should not have tossed her out to fend for herself in a foreign country like that either. They should have allowed her to remain for the few days while not atteding classes and waiting for her flight.

  • familyfour Sep 17, 2009

    Alyssa Valdez signed a code of ethics before taking the trip......and was accused of excessive partying and keeping a man after hours....

    Come on mom and dad.....

    may not want to see it, but there it is.

  • 007KnightRider Sep 17, 2009

    Oh, cry me a river. The girl knew the rules, she broke the rules and faced the punishment by getting dropped from the program. Mom and Dad need to be kicked in the rear for making it seem as if UNC was in the wrong. No your daughter was in the wrong not UNC, face the facts.

  • me2you Sep 17, 2009

    ".....A man did slept on a couch at the house, Merribeth Valdez said, but the couple said they don't think their daughter did anything wrong..."
    When are these writers going to start proofreading before publishing? GEEZ

  • barrygt30 Sep 17, 2009

    Quit whining about it. She obviously did something she shouldn't have, got caught, and booted from the program. While I don't think the way it was handled was appropriate (she shouldn've been put on a plane and sent back), the moronic statement about could have been raped/killed, etc, didn't happen. So deal with it and deal with your daughter who apparently is not making good life choices.

  • hollylama Sep 17, 2009

    If she signed a code of conduct and strayed from that then she should have been dismissed. The fact that she turned down the assistance proves she's probably a little rebelious. She was likely upset that her actions and decisions had such swift and sweeping consequences. The story she told her parents was likely grossly inaccurate and they're runnin with it.

  • workingforthosethatwont Sep 17, 2009

    that's it, blame someone else. if all this is true, it sounds like she has never had to accept the consequences of her actions. bad girl, go home and try not to embarrass your family or our country any further.

  • GWALLY Sep 17, 2009

    ...."and even walking with penguins..." ???? What the heck???? game over, go home little girl, take your penguin walking self back to Chapel Hill!!!! Oh...and grow up..!!!

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Sep 17, 2009

    As an exchange student counselor for foreign students here in the US, I've had to toss a misbehaving student back home. But even egregious violations required advance notice to parents. "We're sending your brat back home!" ;-)

    So, I can see how other countries may not be so patient, especially if the violation put other students at risk. And, she's an adult... so, game over. You go home now, Missy. Buh-bye.