Nearly 40 percent of St. John’s University undergraduates study abroad during their time here through a variety of programs SJU offers.
Although European vacations have long been among the most coveted and romanticized, there have been concerns about violent attacks in countries including both Spain and France—the former included in St. John’s Global Passport program.
Since 2014, there has been an increase in violent attacks across Europe, and recent incidents resonate with students.
On September 17, 2017, four American college students were splashed with hydrochloric acid in a Marseilles train station in the south of France.
The attacker was deemed mentally unstable and authorities lack proper evidence suggesting that it was terrorism.
Terrorist attack or not, people have reacted.The amount of terrorist and non-terrorist violence occurring in Europe at present has alarmed both travelers and students alike.
The students could have been any of us, we think. But it’s not that simple.
We have a few factors to consider before deciding not to study abroad due to such incidents.
First, we attend school in New York City. Crimes occur daily and while it is among the safest urban areas in the United States, we are never completely safe at home. For example, in 2015, a man wielded a hammer at four women on the streets of Manhattan.
Despite horrific episodes like these, we continue to walk in public because it is necessary.
Second, the world we live in is unique to all of documented human history.
The human mind is not made to process as much suffering as we are exposed to daily, or hourly, through our ever-vigilant media.
We are provided with 24/7 coverage of events ranging from Hurricane Maria’s destruction of homes in Puerto Rico to the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar and finally, to these brutal attacks occurring worldwide.
We are all perpetually stressed because we, as a global society, are constantly being made cognizant of every possible thing that could go awry.
The fear is a natural reaction that hinders us in our daily lives.
It’s important to take a step back and realize that we are now witnessing sparse events that occur in a community of nine million people.
The last factor to consider is that we, as humans, believe we exercise some form of control over our circumstances, when in reality we know nothing and control very little.
Deciding not to study abroad is not going to guarantee anyone a long and healthy life that is free from harm.
Every day, people fall down the stairs, crash their cars, and are diagnosed with lethal diseases.
One of the worst tragedies in American history was imposed on people who were just arriving at work.
To some, the attacks are justification not to travel to Europe.
To me, that indicates that the attackers were successful in their goals—terrorizing people.
Beyond inflicting pain on individuals within their immediate scope, terrorists seek to intimidate people worldwide.
In essence, life is random and we might as well have adventures while we can.
Life is short, and by deliberately missing chances, we may find that we have ultimately lost. To live and travel without fear is to remove power from the hands of those who seek to terrorize us.