Students look forward to study abroad despite increase in fatal terror attacks in Western Europe

Photo courtesy Flickr user Chris Yunker.

For junior Francesca Ciuffo, going to Rome for the spring 2018 semester is an experience she has been looking forward to for years. However, with domestic and international terrorism on the rise, she said her upcoming semester abroad does come with some fear.

The number of fatal terror attacks across Western Europe has been on the rise in recent years, according to data released by the Global Terrorism Database. In 2014, there were two attacks. That number jumped to 23 in 2015 and up again to 30 attacks in 2016.

The attacks have resulted in fatalities ranging from dozens to hundreds killed or injured.

Ciuffo said the rise in terrorism across Europe temporarily put a damper on her plans last year when she began to fear potential attacks. The New York native said last year, even in the United States, she was scared to participate in events that drew large numbers of people, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Director of the Study Abroad Office Devika Milner said students shouldn’t worry too much about terrorism abroad. Though the number of terrorist attacks in Europe has risen, UM has not dropped any of its programs in Western European countries. In fact, UM will launch a new UParis program in spring 2018, even though Paris suffered the deadliest attack recorded in Western Europe in November 2015. Milner said the program has already garnered 20 applications.

“I stand behind the places where we have programs,” Milner said. “I have visited many of our university partners, and not only do we go to cities and countries that are deemed safe, but even the neighborhoods where we look for student housing are good neighborhoods.”

The University of Miami monitors its students and faculty members who go abroad through a software system called red24, which provides up-to-the-minute notifications about any potential disruptions in areas where UM students or faculty reside. If a serious incident occurs near one of UM’s partner institutions, the study abroad office immediately reaches out to both the partner institution and any students who could potentially be affected. Students are then told to follow the instructions of the university where they are studying.

In some cases, the study abroad office has organized for students to return home early. In 2015, some UM students studying in Paris on independently organized programs expressed a desire to leave after the attacks. All students who wished to return early were able to complete their studies electronically from home, Milner said.

Though UM offers study abroad opportunities in other countries and cities that have been hit by terror attacks and other forms of unrest in the past, UM does not offer study abroad programs in any countries that have travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department.

In recent years, the university has been forced to suspend two of its semester-long programs. The UCape Town program was canceled by the office of Study Abroad in October 2016 after months of student protests and violence in South Africa. The response erupted as a result of a call to raise tuition by 8 percent. The increase would significantly impact marginalized families. UCape Town will resume in spring 2018.

UM also suspended all of its programs in Turkey following several terrorist attacks by both ISIS and Kurdish militants that led to more than 400 deaths. The study abroad office still does not allow its students to travel to Turkey through the university.

Despite political and civil tensions in various parts of the world, the number of students applying to go to Europe has not declined, Milner said.

Ciuffo said she was initially nervous to apply for the URome program but has come to accept that dangers exist everywhere.

“You have to do what you want to do,” she said. “Don’t live your life in fear and, even in Rome, you just have to be careful of your surroundings.”

Ciuffo said the university has done a good job of keeping her informed about the dangers abroad and how to prepare for her upcoming semester.

Samantha Hessinger, a senior planning to study in London next semester, said the terror attacks abroad have had little to no effect on her choice of where to study.

“You shouldn’t limit yourself because there are bad people in the world,” she said.

Featured photo courtesy Flickr user Chris Yunker.