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      Task Force talks safety of foreign students working in Myrtle Beach

      Around 4,000 international college students travel to Myrtle Beach to work every summer, and a newly formed task force on the Grand Strand aims to better their experience.

      The college students are allowed to live and work in the United States under the US State Department's J-1 Visa Summer Work and Travel Program.

      The task force is comprised of officials with the City of Myrtle Beach, the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association, the City of North Myrtle Beach and Horry County. Members met Wednesday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center to talk with international students about things like bike and pedestrian safety, driving mopeds, alcohol and drug use, DUI laws, trespassing and dialing 911.

      "We're trying to figure out how we can work together to have this host city, the Grand Strand, meet the expectations of the particular students who are coming in," Stephen Greene, with the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association, said.

      Knowledge of the simple and basic information could very well keep an international student from being a target of crime or being seriously injured in a situation that could have been avoided. That very scenario happened in May 2011 when two Russian exchange students were hit by a van in downtown Myrtle Beach. Both were injured, one seriously.

      "We have to understand that we're dealing with various cultures that come into the community and we have to make sure we understand what the differences are between our community and their community. That's part of this task force, figuring out ways that we can provide information whether it's on bicycle safety or how to be careful around crime," Greene added.

      The task force members compiled effective ways to better the work travel program from by studying two other destinations. "Ocean City, Maryland and Virginia Beach, VA. They have some very successful task force programs that they're utilizing for this work travel program and we're looking at how we can better our community," Greene said.

      Myrtle Beach businesses have already started the hiring process to fill hundreds of seasonal positions available. Students are allowed to enter the U.S. to work and travel during their summer vacation for up to four months.