The recent terrorist attack in Paris, France on Nov. 13 has instilled fear and hesitancy in parents regarding their children who are or are planning to study abroad. While this fear is understandable because there are growing threats concerning where the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will attack next, we cannot put our lives on hold based on uncertainty. ISIL’s actions should be taken seriously, but we should not allow the terrorist group to prevent us from living our lives or furthering our educational endeavors.
As someone who hopes to study abroad in London in spring 2017, my grandparents expressed their concern about my safety abroad following the recent Paris attacks. Much of their concern stems from London’s proximity to Paris — a mere three hour train ride. Despite their understandable concerns, I do plan to study in Europe, and I am aware of the terrorism that London specifically has experienced.
Most recently, CNN reported a stabbing in an east London Underground station on Dec. 5. According to CNN, police are treating the attack as a terrorist act and are investigating witnesses’ reports claiming that the suspect yelled, “This is for Syria.” After hearing this, I was extremely concerned. This event could have happened anywhere, but its possibility for greater implications is unsettling. However, the most recent attack in London is not unprecedented. One attack that resonated around the world was the July 7, 2005 London bombings. According to BBC News, it was the worst terrorist attack experienced in Britain. Although this past July marked 10 years since that day, we must remain vigilant to avoid giving power to those trying to instill widespread fear.
Additionally, those studying abroad should take precautions to avoid dangerous situations. One measure is being aware of our surroundings. I am guilty of looking down when I am walking somewhere, while others tend to look at their phones. When we are distracted, we limit our awareness of what is happening around us. While abroad I will be making an effort to limit distractions while traveling, and I urge others to do the same.
I am not the only person who thinks that proper precautions can prevent dangerous situations while abroad. Sophomore Julia St. Germain, who is planning to study abroad in Aix en Provence, France in spring 2016, is not worried like some of her relatives were following the Paris attack. “I personally do not [have any concerns],” St. Germain said. “I know the country is still very safe and I would feel comfortable walking around and traveling in the area.” St. Germain added, “Our study abroad meeting did point out though to think twice about being in areas with large groups.” The awareness tips from study abroad groups are crucial to our safety. However, many of us recognize the impossibility of avoiding large groups, since the point of traveling abroad is to see the tourist attractions which receive the most international attention. The only solution would be to visit these locations, but not for too long.
St. Germain also believes that reconsidering studying abroad would be a mistake. “No one should feel impeded by such acts,” she said. “The whole idea behind attacks is to instill terror. Students and travelers should not give terrorists the satisfaction of being afraid, but merely continue life as we please and not give them power.” I agree with her because giving these terrorists the power to take away our sense of safety also surrenders our dignity. The concerns about studying abroad seem to be expressed more from parents of students. In a study by peer-to-peer money transfer service Transferwise earlier this year, 55 percent of U.S. college students were most concerned about the expenses of studying abroad. However, 87 percent of the surveyed parents cited safety issues, such as terrorism, illness and crime among their concerns. That fear is not likely to decrease given ISIL’s continued presence. However, students have to take this great opportunity to explore new cultures and help our families understand that these opportunities do not come around often.
Ultimately, parents will always be concerned with their child’s safety abroad, but there will always be terror threats throughout the world. Many Fairfield students plan to study abroad during their junior year, and that should not change. Even for those who don’t study abroad, we are only a train-ride away from New York City, a city that has had a giant spotlight shone on it since Sept. 11, 2001. Danger can occur in any corner of the world, and it is our responsibility to be aware of its presence and not hide from it.