I want to preface this blogpost by stating that I do not claim to represent the opinions of UNCG or the Lloyd International Honors College. These are simply my insights on the tragedies which have ensued as of late, especially in regards to the effect they have on study abroad.
Last Tuesday morning, my friends and I were discussing where we would travel for our long Easter weekend. One friend had planned on going to Brussels for the weekend and had already bought her plane tickets and rented a hostel. Along with a few others, I was considering joining her on her trip when, suddenly, we heard the news: an airport in Brussels had been bombed and the death count was slowly rising.
I had been warned numerous times before leaving to study abroad in Lyon, France that I need to be careful and hyperaware of my surroundings because of the Paris terrorist attacks, but it never felt as real to me as a few nights ago. On my routing bus ride home from university, I noticed a passenger get off the back of the bus who was covering his face with the hood of his jacket. I made eye contact with another passenger and we gave each other that “I have no idea” expression. When the suspicious passenger descended the bus, the other passenger and I both noticed that a bag was left beneath the man’s chair. We are always told to be on the lookout for suspicious activity and to report if a bag has been left in a public space, so you can imagine our fear in that moment. The other passenger got up and slowly nudged the bag with his foot and then opened it. Thankfully, it ended up just being some trash, but I am so grateful for that other passenger and his care in the given situation.
Although it turned out to be nothing dangerous, that night was the first time in my study abroad experience in which I have truly felt the fear of the people living here and the threat put upon them presently. The thing is, this fear which has recently been felt by much of the Western world is the daily existence of many in other parts of the world. That does not, by any means, diminish the validity of our newfound fear, but rather allows some perspective on what life is like for others.
After the Paris attacks, the world was on high alert and many people with plans to study abroad made the decision to remain in their home countries. I understand this decision completely as the risk of traveling is definitely elevated right now, but I also do not think that we should let this fear control us. As Canadian rapper Drake so eloquently proclaimed, “You only live once”. For those hoping to travel or study abroad next semester, I urge you all to please take the incredible opportunity while you can and do not let these occurrences hold you back. I do not deny that I had my worries prior to coming to France and still have some, but the chance to travel to different countries and experience cultures which are entirely new to me does not come often and I am so glad that I made the decision to go.
Jean Moulin University Lyon 3