Recently,the media has been flooded with stories surrounding the attacks that killed over 130 people in Paris the night of November 13, 2015. But little to none of these stories shed light on exactly how the students abroad are feeling and effected by these attacks. I hope to shed light on this for the students traveling to Europe in the coming months.
First of all, breathe. I am sure recent events have made some of you question, if even for a little bit, the decision to study abroad, but as a student currently in Italy, the best advice I can give you is to just relax.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, the night of November 13, when I got countless texts and phone calls from friends and family in the states asking if I was safe and shedding light on what was occurring in France, I was frightened. The next few days were stressful as I, and every other American student in my program, continued to check the news multiple times a day and, as the U.S. and the consulate in Rome issued travel advisories, many of us students questioned our safety abroad.
As a few days went by and some students opted to head back to the U.S., I began to realize something; you can’t stop living your life in fear of something that might or might not happen.
Terrorism, in itself, is a tactic that preys upon the psyche of it’s victims. It is an ideology, a metaphysical presence that cannot be touched of physically combated. That is a slightly frightening characteristic as individuals can become radicalized and carry out attacks in any part of the world.
Think about that for a minute. A terrorist attack can come from ANYONE, ANYWHERE. Sure, some locations may be more prone, such as big cities, to these attacks, but unless you hole up in a bunker your entire life there is no real place that is theoretically safe.
Also, think about how unlikely it is to be personally effected by an attack. I found a comical article that talks about all of the statistics and probability of finding yourself that type of situation, definitely give it a look!
Toxoplasmosis is a brain-parasite. The CDC reports that more than 375 Americans die annually due to toxoplasmosis. In addition, 3 Americans died in 2011 after being exposed to a brain-eating amoeba. So you’re about 22 times more likely to die from a brain-eating zombie parasite than a terrorist.
The 2011 Report on Terrorism from the National Counter Terrorism Center notes that Americans are just as likely to be “crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year” as they are to be killed by terrorists.
So, if you’re not constantly afraid of Toxoplasmosis, or your sofa, then why give up your dreams of traveling as well?
My daily life has been minimally effected by the attacks. I have always felt safe abroad, but if anything, the increase in security has made me feel even safer here. The police presence has increased in many cities, which deter pick pockets and other minimal crimes from occurring that students typically have to be aware of.
There are also simple steps to keeping safe, such as Chinese Kites enrolling in the Smart Traveler Program, being vigilant in a crowd, and trying to blend in with the culture you are in! Those are some steps that I have taken, even before the attacks, that made me feel safe abroad.
So trust me. Relax. You are going to have an amazing adventure ahead of you.