By: Jasmine Driggs and Samantha Small
Virginia Wesleyan students currently studying overseas refuse to let the recent Paris terrorist attacks affect their experiences abroad.
Virginia Wesleyan currently has 13 students studying abroad at different locations including Jordan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Panama, Italy, France, the Czech Republic and Belgium.
Ryan Breen, a senior theatre major, is currently studying at the University of Roehampton in London, England. He was in a room with his friends in Amsterdam when the attacks occurred.
“It was really scary because we were actually in France that day,” Breen said. The group of students traveled through France to get to Amsterdam the day the attacks occurred.
Breen and his friends visited Paris for two days about a week before the attacks.
“I was the first one to hear about the attacks. Everyone immediately ran for their phones and searched on local news sources,” Breen said.
Breen spoke of his friend he met while studying abroad, Louise, who was born in Paris but moved to the U.S. when she was very young. He said Louise still has family in Paris, including her sister. Louise received word a couple of days after the attacks that a close family friend of Louise’s father died during the attacks.
Stephanie Williams, a senior communication major who is studying abroad in Italy, wrote in her blog about her changed perspectives after the terrorist attacks.
“As a study abroad student in Europe, my perspective on the events is shifted. I’m much more alert and aware of my surroundings in Rome, but during the evening of the event, I was enjoying a nice night out in Barcelona.”
That night, Williams went out to eat and to a movie with her boyfriend and his friends before heading back to her apartment.
“The night was perfect. And then the messages flooded in,” Williams said.
Williams wrote that as she turned her cellphone on and connected to Wifi, she was immediately informed of what happened. She saw alerts from CNN flash across her screen as well as text messages from her family and friends who were trying to check on her safety.
“I sent replies to everyone wanting to know I was OK,” Williams said.
Breen said the attacks reminded him of the ever-present hate and danger in the world.
“It seems that no matter where you go, your safety is not guaranteed. It pains me to realize that people cannot get along, put aside their differences, and just live,” Breen said.
Virginia Wesleyan faculty assured students that the college did everything it could to ensure students’ safety abroad.
“Virginia Wesleyan’s Study Away Program (SAP) is working with our study abroad providers and institutions to ensure students’ safety. We have daily communication with them. Our partners in Europe have offered students the option of immediately returning to the United States, if they so choose,” Sara Sewell, executive director of The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration and Discovery, said.
According to Sewell, none of the students who are currently abroad expressed interest in returning home early.
“Our SAP Director, Ms. Lena Johnson, has been in touch with all of our students, and they all have assured us of their safety. We will continue to monitor the international situation and events on the ground to ensure students’ safety,” Sewell said.
“Other than the few times we actually connected to Wifi and checked for updates, it was almost like the whole thing didn’t happen. We didn’t immediately see additional security and I didn’t see any added checks at the Barcelona airport. When I got back to Rome, however, I had an immediate passport check before I could enter the airport,” Williams said.
The Lighthouse and the Center of the Study of Religious Freedom held a campus forum last Thursday to encourage conversation within our community. About 100 people attended. Participants generally expressed eagerness to learn more about international events and to figure out ways to respond on campus.
“Many students additionally state that they believe that it is important not to punish Syrian refugees, who have already suffered as a result of the civil war in their home country,” Sewell said.
Another campus forum was held on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. in The Lighthouse.
Isis released a video on Monday Nov. 16, 2015 claiming the next target to be the United States’ capital city, Washington D.C.
“There is a heavy police presence in Times Square, and U.S. Capitol Police sent security awareness reminders to congressional offices today [Monday],” ABC News reported.
According to News Channel 10, VA Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Suffolk are all on the ISIS Kill List.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria published this report containing names, photos and home addresses of U.S. Armed Forces personnel, causing alarm in cities potentially at high risk. The Tidewater area is home to many military families making it a prime target for the terrorist group.
The Eagles of Death Metal, and American rock band, was performing at the Bataclan theatre on the evening of the attack where most of the deaths took place. There were at least 118 people found dead at the concert hall. Mary Lou Dorio, mother of Julian Dorio, the drummer for Eagles of Death Metal, said that the members of the band managed to escape safely.
There were piles of bodies outside of Le Petit Cambodge, the very popular café in Paris where shootings took place during the attacks. CNN reported 14 people were killed at the restaurant.
Among the 14 killed was Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old junior at California State University. Gonzalez was studying design in France at the Strate College of Design in Paris. She was dining at the restaurant La Belle Équipe when she was killed. School officials say she was the first American confirmed dead in the attacks. The New York Times later reported that Gonzalez was the only American known to have died in the attacks. Another student was shot and wounded but was able to leave the restaurant.
Virginia Wesleyan students expressed many different opinions concerning the attacks. Breen said he was pained by the attacks as he realized killing due to terrorism and hatred will not cease anytime soon.
“When will it stop? When will the refusal to recognize that we are all in this together sink in? When is enough, enough?” Breen said.
Williams said that she is keeping three key things in her mind as she is studying in Rome.
“Don’t let worry consume you, some things are out of our control but we can control how we act accordingly, travel and learn as much as you can,” Williams said.