The morning of March 22, the world was shocked by three bombings claimed to be attacks organized by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). It caused Europe to flash back to the evening of November 13, 2015, when terror attacks struck Paris, again claimed by ISIL.
Europe has always been a place where students have dreamed of studying abroad, yet what do these current events mean for the programs? As of now, Messiah’s study abroad programs in Europe have not been suspended or altered.
Faith Minich Kjesbo is the Director of the Intercultural Office and Chair of the International Risk Management Committee at Messiah. The committee does extensive research to ensure the security of Messiah students studying around the globe.
“We take these decisions very seriously,” says Kjesbo. “Students can’t learn if they’re not safe whether on or off-campus. We recognize that in some real ways the risk is higher when they’re off-campus, but there’s risk here. They’re not as aware of their resources in the new culture, new city, so we try to put these things in place before they even go abroad.”
The Intercultural Office works with partners in various locations around the world to assure students are safe and have resources around them to successfully debrief throughout their time away from the main campus. The Office also provides students with the most recent U.S. State Department information, including travel alerts and warnings.
“We really do take safety seriously,” says Wendy Lippert, assistant director of off-campus programs. “We spend a lot of time evaluating, not just reacting but building an infrastructure with our program partners. There are multiple layers of support in place, and as we look at programs, we’re not going to send our students to a place where there is not a reasonable expectation that they’re in a safe learning environment.”
There were no Messiah students in Brussels during the time of the terror attacks. However, senior Rebekah Glick recalls her deep emotions for the people of Brussels and France as she studied abroad only a few months before the Paris attacks.
“I saw where the attacks were, and I thought I was just there,” says Glick. “It gave me a better perspective on people who live in war-torn areas, especially in the Middle East where this is just kind of the norm.”
Due to the instability of the region, the program in Jerusalem has been suspended. However, the risk is something many students consider before progressing with the application process to study abroad.
“Ultimately that’s a decision for the students and parents to make, what they’re comfortable with,” says Lippert. “The nature of the world right now is that it can be anywhere. Students are evaluating that, taking it into consideration.”
For students abroad, a numerous amount of processing is done overseas and on arrival back to the States. Beyond the risk factor, culture shock is another aspect of studying abroad many students expect. There are orientation days for students to become acquainted with their new surroundings to combat culture shock.
The Intercultural Office also acknowledges the importance of having a reentry debrief for students abroad. However, the challenge for individuals traveling in the spring semester is going straight home and into summer, rather than having a retreat where they can process the changes they face.
“A lot of processing happens at home, but we send emails and some tips for addressing this time over the summer,” Kjsebo says. “We make sure they know the resources available to them. We can’t help [the students] if we don’t know they’re struggling.”
Traveling abroad during the college years and finding your classroom in a different country is a profound time for many students. Any hesitations in pursuing a study abroad program have not been made known to Lippert, who interacts with students, introducing them to the various programs and overseeing their application process.
The various study abroad options available to Messiah students are part of a wonderful program, which expands the classroom and is an asset for students’ careers. Plus, the Intercultural Office is there to guide students on how to use their experiences abroad to enhance their resume. Overall, it is truly an experience of a lifetime.
“It’s frustrating when people say they can’t study abroad because of what’s happening,” says Glick. “It’s not about living in fear; this is the world we live in. It’s super important to put yourself out there; there is so much reward from it.”
Myriam Pedercini, Culture Editor
I believe in the power of storytelling, getting lost in someone else’s culture to understand who they are and exploring the world to realize who you are.