As students prepare to study abroad to countries around the globe, recent terrorist attacks have some students questioning their safety
Attack at Parliament
Five people, including an American man and a woman knocked into the River Thames, were killed when a rental car was slammed onto the sidewalk on Westminster Bridge outside of Parliament.
The driver, identified as Khalid Masood, injured dozens in the attack and five remain in critical condition.
Masood was gunned down and killed before he attempted to enter the doors of Parliament, which had been shut down upon Masood’s threat was revealed.
Chelsi Colleton, study abroad coordinator, was aware of the process Edge Hill University, located in Ormskirk, England, was taking in the aftermath of the attack.
She said, “None of our study abroad students were involved with that but it did impact Edge Hill as a community, no one was seriously injured but they did have to respond to their crisis management team and make sure everyone was okay.”
Colleton said the incident, while terrible, made everyone aware of the procedures that take place during an incident and allowed Winthrop to see firsthand how other countries take control of students during a crisis.
A fireworks display on Bastille Day in Nice, France ended in heartbreak as a semi-truck plowed through a crowd of people, killing eighty-six and injuring dozens.
The driver was 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian man who has been claimed by ISIS as one of their followers.
Karlyn McLeod, a junior French major studying in France in the fall, recalls the attack and how it connects to her recent travel plans.
“In France, there has just been a lot of random attacks, especially the one where the guy was driving the van through the crowds of people. So I don’t necessarily know if there’s a way to keep an eye out for these things but just definitely being aware that this is happening and be safe is what my main plan is for that,” McLeod said.
McLeod is planning on staying aware but is not going to let the attack take away from her experience.
She said, “I’m still going to go, I’m still going to have fun no matter what. Just because that’s happening, I mean, things are happening all over the world doesn’t mean you can’t go have fun.”
Another student studying abroad in France, Amanda Hollis, says the attacks are not causing her to change her mind on whether she should go or not.
“I’m not too worried about it because I have the kind of mentality that nothing is going to happen to me so I don’t ever really think ‘I’m going to go to this place and I might possibly get blown up’ or something like that,” Hollis said.
She continued on, “I always think ‘I’ll be fine,’ so I’m not worried about it but it is in the back of my mind.”
Preparing for the Worst
The study abroad office is attempting to prepare students studying abroad for the worst through a pre-departure orientation, a mandatory meeting for all students going overseas.
Colleton said, “Before students go, we do a pre-departure orientation and we do a whole section on health and safety and risk management and it’s really, my rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t do it here in Rock Hill or here in Charlotte, you shouldn’t do it abroad.”
Colleton recommends traveling with a buddy, registering with the consulate office, letting the program staff or their office know where you are and assessing the risks in the area you will be in.
Colleton said that most recent studies show that there is no noticeable decline in the amount of students studying abroad to other countries due to the attacks.
Research does show, however, that there is a steep decline in international student applications to U.S. universities.
It is not necessarily related to the attacks but appear to be connected to the political situation with the inauguration of the new president.
Despite the fear from students coming to the U.S. and students going overseas, one student studying abroad to Italy doesn’t want to let fear take control of her travels.
Tessa Benoit, sophomore commercial photography major, “If it happens, stuff happens, you’re going to miss a train, you’re going to find people, you’re going to meet people you don’t want to meet, you’re going to be in situations… just live.”
“Don’t live in fear of ‘Oh my gosh this could happen, but always keep your guard up and keep it in the back of your mind,” Benoit said.