NC student studying in Dominican Republic is safe, aware of surroundings despite rise in recent American deaths

Student studying in the Dominican Republic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As the FBI continues investigating after a 10th person has died in the Dominican Republic, the string of fatalities leaves travelers worried and we’ve recently learned that a local university student is in the country right now, studying abroad.

That student is Dara Bridges and shes studying through a program with UNC-Charlotte in the Dominican Republic right now.

“I’m pretty aware of whats going on," says Bridges, “For 2 months, this is my second month so I have about 3 weeks left.”

Bridges is studying Political Science and Spanish along with other students from across the US.

“We’re living with local Dominican families," she explained. “They’ve really welcomed us in with open arms.”

Shes staying in the city of Santiago. Its on the other side of the country compared to where most tourists stay when vacationing at resorts. Right now US officials are cautioning travelers heading to any part of the country. That’s because at least ten American citizens have died at resorts in the Dominican Republic within the past year, according to officials.

"I’ve gotten a few emails from the study abroad office.”

Bridges says the university’s Study Abroad office encouraged her to download the travel advisory app CART which can alert her to crime or dangerous situations going on in her area.

“I have gotten a few notifications about the deaths on some of the resorts," she says. “It felt a little bit disconnected to the reality that I’m seeing here, if you’re from the United States and you come to visit, everyone is so welcoming, it doesn’t feel like anyone is out to get anybody.”

“I’ve never felt like anyone was going to harm me as an American or as a tourist," Bridges says.

Bridges is about 2 hours away from the closest resort where one of the deaths from this year was reported. But she says she doesn’t feel unsafe and she stays aware of her surroundings at all times.

“I mean if you’re in a foreign country of course try and keep your guard up and try to make yourself feel safe and take precautions but I wouldn’t write off an entire country based on a few isolated incidents.”

The U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo said there is no proof right now that the deaths are linked. As for Dara, she says shes had a wonderful experience so far and plans to come back in the future.

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