Studying Abroad in an Increasingly Terrorized World

As the fall semester approaches, many rising juniors will begin preparing for a major milestone in their college careers: studying abroad. This now common practice has increased in popularity over the years—yet so too has the threat of terrorist attacks.

Fresh on the minds of individuals departing this August are the recent tragedies that occurred at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport last week on June 28. A triple suicide bombing, suspected to be a plot of ISIS, left 44 dead and as many as 239 injured. Additionally, Emory University confirmed this past Saturday that two of their students, Abinta Kabir and Faraaz Hossain, in addition to UC Berkeley student Tarishi Jain, were among those taken hostage and killed in the attack of a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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Photo courtesy of Boston College OIP / Facebook

Fear, an unsavory travel companion, has thus gripped many students with plans to study abroad. Arguably, however, this fear must be discarded. As defined by some political science theorists, terrorism is a media-perpetuated psychological—not physical—tool used to plant the seeds of fear and unrest in a target society. By succumbing to this fear and opting not to study abroad, one is effectively allowing these extremist organizations to "win."

Students must instead endeavor to honor the memory of these victims by standing unafraid and dispelling the irrational, toxic fear sown by terrorism. The possibility of violence must be directly confronted by accepting the risk that accompanies the decision to study abroad. In our modern age, high levels of security are not a guarantee of absolute safety. In fact, prior to last week's attacks, Atatürk airport was considered among the safest in Europe.

For those making their way to the United Kingdom in the wake of Brexit, re-established border control will fail to have a significant impact on Britain’s fight against terrorism and extremism. According to the London-based counter-terrorism think-tank The Quilliam Foundation:

 “With the de-territorialisation of security policies, the end of traditional notions of war and rapidly changing threat dynamics driven by the Age of Behaviour, European security has become an increasingly complex and multi-dimensional issue. There is no formula that can calculate the outcome of a Brexit on our security and most importantly, even if there was a formula, there would be too many unknown variables to resolve it.”

Studying abroad, as many proponents will claim, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Students must recognize that risk is inevitable at times, even when avoiding travel, and that committing oneself to an experience abroad is not an example of mortality-ignorant youthful recklessness. There is an inherent risk involved in experiencing the world firsthand, but the benefits of this practice significantly outweigh the measured consequences.

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Ryan Bradley