For some students, Fairfield’s study abroad program is the most enticing feature that the University has to offer. The study abroad office oversees six different programs in Florence, Italy; Aix-en-Provence, France; Brisbane, Australia; Galway, Ireland; Managua, Nicaragua and Madrid, Spain. In addition, they have over 60 different approved programs where students can study.
With all of these different opportunities, many juniors make the decision to go abroad for the semester. However, in recent events, following the attacks in Paris and Brussels, the decision to go and stay abroad in places like Europe has been difficult.
Junior Amanda McKenna has just returned back from her fall semester in Florence, Italy. During the time of the terrorist attack in Paris, where 89 people were killed and over 200 were wounded, McKenna had been traveling over Europe, but never felt that her safety had been threatened.
“Growing up in NYC, terrorism has always been an idea in my head because of 9/11,” said McKenna. “But I never felt less safe just because I was abroad.”
After the attacks in Paris, the students heading abroad for the spring semester had to decide whether leaving campus was the right decision.
“I hadn’t even thought about terrorism abroad until the Paris attacks,” stated Mary Calabro ‘17, who is currently abroad in Galway. “It honestly made me a little nervous, but then I talked to my parents and they said I couldn’t let it impact my experience.”
Students who decided to go abroad despite constant threats made from different terrorist groups kept an attitude like Calabro’s. Although The Mirror could not get in contact with the Study Abroad office at this time, the office has taken several steps to ensure each student’s safety while in another country. According to their page at fairfield.edu, the abroad office is in “constant communication with our partners overseas, including Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the U.S. State Department.” Students abroad are urged to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, where one can receive updates and warnings on travel advisories.
Furthermore, program directors and coordinators in Florence have implemented a system of keeping track of students on the weekends. This system became extremely important after the attacks in Brussels, Belgium that occurred less than two weeks ago.
“Our program in Florence has been very good about keeping tabs on us,” said Danny Bueno ‘17. “Every week, we are obligated to fill out a form asking us whether or not we’re traveling over the weekend, and if we are traveling they ask where we’re staying and how to contact the hostel/us while we’re away.”
The attacks in Brussels occurred during the week-long break that students take mid-semester. During this time, many students travel and a top-destination happened to be Brussels.
Junior Alex Weiss was on a bus leaving from the Rue du Progrès, Gare du Nord/Noordstation in Brussels to get to Paris. The bus she took left at 7:20 a.m. and the station which she left from was only about twenty minutes from the airport where the attacks occurred at 8:00 a.m.
“It was unsettling because of the fact that we had just missed the terror attacks by about 40 minutes,” said Weiss. “… danger and violence can happen at any place or time, you can’t live your life in fear, but you do have to be cautious, keep your head above your shoulders at all times, and just be aware.”
According to an email sent from the Office of Study Abroad, at this time, the University does not have any plans to evacuate students. Rather than taking students out of the situation, the email stated that students should be taking extra precautions.
“I definitely think since the attacks happened I have been more aware,” said Buono. “Every time I step on to public transit I not only watch my belongings, but also pay extreme attention to my surroundings.”