Paris Attacks: What Does Terrorism Mean for Study Abroad?

by Dominic James Fusco

On Friday, November 13th, 2015,  tragedy struck Europe once again. A group of armed assailants acting on behalf of ISIS launched coordinated attacks across Paris, killing over 120 people and wounding many others. It was the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II. Global media outlets have painted a picture of the ensuing chaos in Paris and a city reeling from disaster, yet freshly united in patriotic fervor.

Update: On July 14th, 2016, which is celebrated as Bastille Day in France, a truck plowed through celebrants in Nice, driving for over two kilometers through crowds of people. His acts killed over 80 people and injured hundreds more. Again, France remains in mourning from an apparent terrorist attack on their country and people.

We have been shown images of innocent victims, daring police raids, and politicians spouting fiery rhetoric in retaliation. The attacks have sent a chilling reminder that terrorism is still, at large, a global threat.

Palais de Chaillot

Taken at dusk on a summer evening from the Eiffel Tower, the beautiful Palais de Chaillot can be seen with a music festival going on in the foreground along the Seine River.

Photo by Byron Francis

Let us not forget that these incidents have not occurred in a vacuum.

For decades the world has been plagued with terrorist attacks, in a variety of forms, across many regions, with a diverse array of culprits. In the past couple months alone bombings have killed over 100 people in Ankara, around 40 in Beirut, nearly 30 in Baghdad, and almost two dozen in Bamako. Not to mention, terrorists continue to claim responsibility for numerous other tragedies, such as the downing of a Russian commercial airliner over Egypt in October, which killed all 224 people on board.

Although we have two ways of responding to such terrorist attacks, either option leaves the world with the challenge of rebuilding lives, re-establishing some pigment of global order, and instilling a sense of hope for a better world among the masses. Rather than fighting fire with fire then, we must send an even stronger message to those who seek to terrorize us. 

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

Photo by Yolanda Alvarado

Paris, and the emerging global order which it emblematizes, will persevere.

We must persevere in an effort to overcome the intentions of such attacks, prove that we are stronger, and demonstrate our commitment to building bridges, not burning them down. We can do this by continuing to pursue, provide, and support international education.

If you have been planning to study abroad in Paris, or anywhere else in the world, do not recoil in fear from the recent attacks, because that is exactly the intention of the perpetrators.

Remember the purpose of studying abroad: to break down barriers, engage in cross cultural dialogue, and find commonalities with others through the journey. 

We are a generation of global connectivity.

Despite the vain effort of violent counteractive groups, there will be no halt to the progress we can make by joining together. There is no fighting against the tide of history; terrorism, along with the regressive message of fear and hate which it spreads, will ultimately fail if we recognize it and focus on overcoming it. The future is ours to mold.

We are living in an era of hyper-globalization, and if we are to avoid future atrocities, such as that which occurred in Paris, then we must begin to understand each other. As tomorrow’s leaders, it is never too early to start working toward this goal, and study abroad is an excellent way to start.

Change begins, but does not end, in Paris.

As a major global city and one of the most popular study abroad destinations in the world, Paris became the unfortunate victim of blind hate. The city is shaken, but will no doubt recover and unite under a renewed sense of purpose and life. The way to evoke change is to come back stronger than before, so Paris now takes center stage in this change.

Love locks on Pont des Arts, Paris

Love locks on Pont des Arts, Paris

Photo by Niya Johnson

Do not then let the recent attacks deter you from your decision to study abroad.

Let them instead rejuvenate your desire to learn and grow as part of a new age, one that allows people to transcend borders, cultures, and languages to come to understand humanity in a holistic way. There is no telling when or where another attack will hit, but let us never live in fear of what we cannot control. Let us rather send a message to those who threaten our freedom, and let them see that the world is uniting in spite of them.

Studying abroad, volunteering abroad, teaching abroad, working abroad, these are all means by which our generation can transcend national boundaries and begin to usher in a new era of global humanity.

There are some risks inherent in every decision you make, but random acts of terror should not dissuade you from staying on the path to becoming a global citizen. This week we must stand in solidarity with all Parisians as they mourn, as well as with the family of study abroad student Nohemi Gonzalez. But we must also join them as they endure, persevere, and look to the future with hopes and dreams.

Contemplating study abroad? Check out these Safety Resources for Student Travelers:

  1. Travel Warnings/Alerts System - US State Department
  2. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
  3. U.S. Student Abroad Resources
  4. U.S. Embassies Abroad

In the wake of the Paris Attacks and Nice Attack, the GoAbroad Team sends our sincerest condolences to all those affected by terrorism worldwide, including our partners, their participants, and the entire global community dedicated to international education.

For more information on student safety while studying abroad, refer to this excellent and insightful report from the Forum on Education Abroad titled: Insurance Claims Data and Mortality Rates for College Students Studying Abroad.