Roshni Thackurdeen grew up in Queens, New York and now lives in Newburgh, New York. She was trained as a school counselor and has worked for the New York City public schools. Ros is married to Raj. They have three children, Savita, Sean, and Ravi.
In January of 2012, Ros’ youngest son, Ravi, went on his study abroad. He was a chemistry/premed student at Swarthmore University, traveling to Costa Rica with the Office of Tropical Studies (OTS), through Duke University. While there, Ravi studied global health and tropical medicine. He worked twelve-hour days, six days a week, at botanical stations, and with the Ngobe, Boruca, and BriBri communities.
On April 29th, 2012, OTS took students on a surprise end-of-semester celebratory trip to a beach called Playa Tortuga. Only later did Ravi’s family learn that Costa Ricans do not swim at this beach. Formed from six rivers meeting the ocean, Playa Tortuga is one of Costa Rica’s most dangerous beaches. So when Ravi stepped into the bay, he was quickly pulled from shore. For forty minutes, Ravi tread water. But OTS leaders had come without telephones, or safety devices, even rope—so help never came. Two days later, local fisherman found Ravi’s body, and the Red Cross, along with the Thackurdeens, brought his body to shore.
After Ravi’s death, Ros began searching the Internet for other study abroad incidents. “I thought Ravi was study abroad’s first death,” Ros adds, “I didn’t know what I would find.” What she “found” were students dying horrific deaths, reported as one or two days news. Ros collected these stories. She cut ‘n pasted faces with names, cause of death with country and program. Every student had a page. Gradually, there were so many pages, Ros put them in a binder. She filled one binder, then another.
Now up to five binders, Ros calls her work “the dark side of study abroad.” Gradually, she’s begun phoning newly bereaved families to tell them, “You’re not alone.”