In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, many peoples’ global perceptions have been permanently altered. The Study Abroad Program and the students involved in it have felt the effects of this shift and are adapting to those changes. With rising concerns of safety and anti-Americanism, students now have much more to think about before they travel overseas.
Jackie Levine, Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for Study Abroad and Interdepartmental Programs, said that enrollment may be down slightly this spring as compared to last spring, but not significantly, and there is no noticeable drop from past years.
There have been changes to the Study Abroad Program made as a result of the increased fears of security and safety overseas. “A lot of the changes we’re making are changes we would’ve liked to make a long time ago,” Levine said.
There is now a much greater emphasis on parental involvement, mainly with getting students’ permission to notify their parents and sending them far more detailed information, Levine said.
“We’re telling them essentially what we’ve told their sons and daughters,” she said.
These changes are meant to further assure students’ safety abroad, and will most likely remain for a long time to come.
“Safety depends on partnerships,” said Levine, adding that ultimately, safety can never be entirely guaranteed ? individual actions and choices still play a large role in how safe students are.
Levine said that very few students have changed their plans to study abroad, and those that have deferred to future semesters as a result of pressure from their parents. Nationally, the trend is the same.
An online survey recently conducted by the Institute of International Education suggests that most American students are going ahead with their plans to study abroad, and that despite the events of Sept. 11, interest in study abroad programs has remained high.
Overall most UR students have decided to go ahead with their plans and study abroad even after the attacks of Sept. 11th.
“It made me stop and think about what was going on” said Maria Guillily, a junior who decided to study in Italy in the spring. Most students feel that the experience of studying abroad is more than worth any of the risks involved.
In turn they also realize that there are no areas that are completely free of violence. “It’s very very difficult now,” said Levine, “Americans are slowly realizing that you can’t talk about just one region in conflict.”
Students have also expressed concern over the increasing rise of anti-Americanism since bombing in Afghanistan began in early October.
Junior Rachel Shiffrin, who will be studying abroad at the University of Melbourne in Australia next semester, was originally planning to go to London before Sept. 11.
“It really made me much more aware of global issues, as opposed to only being concerned with personal benefits,” Shiffrin said. Since that time she decide to go to Australia instead because she felt that the level of anti-Americanism is much lower and less threatening.
“I don’t think my perception of the world has changed that drastically. It hasn’t suddenly become some terribly unsafe place” said Take Five Scholar Sharon Stillwagon, who studied abroad in Spain at the University of Granada in the spring.
Muhlenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.