Waving goodbye to fear abroad
Taryn Beaufort | Opinion Editor | The USD Vista
Every semester, hundreds of USD students choose to study abroad for the semester despite the possibility that their safety may be compromised. It seems like every other day there is a headline containing the words ‘terrorist attack,’ ‘bombing,’ etc. International violence has become the norm in the news cycle.
Even with what seems like constant attacks, senior Khalil Suradi decided to study abroad in Madrid, Spain this semester.
“In all honesty, the attacks [Europe in general] did not have any influence in my decision,” Suradi said. “They can happen anywhere at any time. There is no way to predict those types of events. Too many people miss out on once in a lifetime opportunities since they are afraid of traveling because of the attacks of the past.”
On Aug. 17, 2017, Barcelona fell victim to its first act of terror. A young man drove a van into the pedestrians walking on the busy street of Las Ramblas. Which led to increased security.
“I have noticed a larger police presence around main sites,” Suradi said. “Guns are not common at all in Spain, so you definitely notice the police officers walking around with their assault rifles ready for the worst scenario.”
The increased presence of firearms has had no effect on Suradi. He said he feels safer than ever in his new home for the next four months.
“The U.S. Embassy is always sending us emails with travel suggestions and places to stay away from,” Suradi said. “USD does a fantastic job of communicating any important events to us.”
At the time of the attack in August, students at USD’s Madrid campus had already begun touring Spain, which included a visit to Barcelona as part of their travel seminars. Fortunately, USD students were in Sevilla, on the opposite side of Spain, but were scheduled to be in Barcelona just a few days after the attack occurred. This led Carlos Burgos, the program director, to create a WhatsApp group in order to stay in touch with all students regarding their safety status while abroad.
Suradi noted that they have only used it once during the recent London metro attack.
As of late, London suffered several blows to the city’s safety. The first of the series of attacks began in March with a shooting on the Westminster Bridge. Another shooting occurred at the Borough Market in June 2017.
However, London’s recent tragedies did not deter senior Yordanos Gedam from spending the summer interning there. Gedam believes that these types of attacks can occur anywhere.
“I refuse to live in fear,” Gedam said. “No matter whether we’re in our home cities going out for a drink or seeing what the restaurants in Italy have to offer, we are susceptible to a potential attack.”
Gedam is by no means deliberately putting herself in the face of danger, but instead choosing to make each one of her days meaningul instead of living by the ‘what-ifs.’
“I’m here to enjoy myself,” Gedam said. “I fully intend to clasp onto this experience with a death grip…pun may be intended.”
Gedam went into her experience abroad with a strong head.
“When terrorists attack, their goal is to incite fear,” Gedam said. “I thought that if I allowed them to carry that much of a power over me, I was letting them win. Besides, ordinarily following a calamity comes a considerable increase in police/security presence, so I felt reasonably secure.”
Gedam is not the only one going abroad with an optimistic mentality.
Senior Elizabeth Rivette chose to study in Paris to learn more about the French culture and to observe the repercussions of the French election. Following a series of major acts of terrorism, France has been in a state of emergency since late 2015, which can be seen in the military presence around the city.
“The effects of the attacks can definitely be seen throughout the city,” Rivette said. “In front of major attractions, such as l’Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame de Paris, there are always military men and women armed and watching the crowds.”
Despite the ever-present military members, Rivette said she does not feel nervous. Before departing for her journey, Rivette had a long conversation with her parents regarding the risks of being abroad, and they all agreed that the chances of being a victim of a terror attack in a foreign country are small.
Rivette instead believes that more concern needs to be placed on the current status of the United States.
“The terror attacks at home are happening on a daily basis and Americans seem to focus more on foreign soil than our own,” Rivette said. “A black individual is more likely to face an act of racism, violence, hatred, etc. on a daily basis than I am to experience an act of terror in four months in Paris.”
The threat of attacks will always be looming over the heads of those contemplating studying abroad. There is no predetermined way to ensure safety, which is why students still consider taking the the options to go abroad.