Despite 9/11, students opt to go abroad
After the events of September 11 and the subsequent path
of action embarked upon by the United States, many have expressed concern
about the safety of international travel. The concern hits particularly
close to home when one considers the 133 Bowdoin students who are abroad
this fall and the 151 will be next semester. Of those figures, 39 are
away for the entire 2001-2 academic year.
According to Off-Campus Study Advisor Janet Lynch, 135 juniors
had planned to study away in the spring, but as of Wednesday, that figure
was down to 118. She said that since spring plans are made almost a year
in advance, there is always a difference between the number of juniors
who plan to go and those who actually do. "Plans do change,"
she said. "[It might be due to a] change in major, or students thinking
that staying at Bowdoin makes more sense for them."
The uncertainty of international travel has not seemed to
deter Bowdoin students from heading out of the country. "We haven't
seen major changes," Lynch said. "We have seen a few people
drop out for the spring, and a few people changed from a year to just
the fall, but that isn't unusual."
Among those students that have changed their plans, the
terrorist attacks haven't been cited as key factors in the decision. "I
wouldn't say that [the uncertainty] has a major or catastrophic effect
in any way," Lynch said. "People are primarily concerned about
transportation; that's probably the number one thing on everyone's mind,"
"We've seen remarkably little in the way of changes,"
said Director of Off-Campus Study Stephen Hall. "We did have some
students dropping out in the couple of weeks after September 11."
Junior Alex Moore, who plans to attend the Intercollegiate
Center for Classical Studies in Rome next semester, said that he isn't
overly worried about his situation as an American overseas. "I'm
bothered by it, obviously, but I feel that I'm going to be safe with my
program," he said.
Hall said that a number of students who decided not to go
abroad cited their parents' concerns about safety. "It's usually
the parents and not the kids," he said.
Sophomore Chelsea Spector agreed. "I think that parents
are a lot more concerned than kids," she said.
Quite a few of those apprehensive parents have contacted
the Off-Campus Study office with questions since the attacks. "We've
had a number of parents calling," Lynch said. "Ultimately, it's
impossible to reassure everyone in light of recent events, but we've certainly
affirmed to parents that all of the programs have taken extra steps to
ensure the security of students."
"We've both been fielding a lot of calls, particularly
in the month right after the 11th," Hall said.
One junior ended up changing her plans after hearing her
parents' feelings on the subject. "I was supposed to go Kenya for
the spring semester, and my parents decided that it just wasn't safe enough
after what had happened," Sydney Asbury said. "I'm going to
Stockholm for the spring instead."
The off-campus study office has been in contact with Bowdoin
students in other countries several times since September and has encouraged
them to take common sense precautions-avoiding large and violent demonstrations
or places where one has heard that something might happen, or being in
a large group of Americans, according to Lynch. "All of the programs
are taking extra measures to ensure the safety of the students,"
The office also attempts to keep students who are living
in foreign countries aware of what is happening in the States. "We
always forward the State Department bulletins to students, and that's
a help," Lynch said.
Lynch asserted that the main concern of study abroad programs
is airline security but also said that traveling to another country isn't
necessarily worse than flying home for the holidays. "You've got
just as much of a chance [on a domestic flight]," she said. "You're
probably safer when flying in Europe, actually."
Spector indicated that she didn't have any major qualms
about flying either. "It's still the safest form of travel,"
The Class of 2004's interest in studying away hasn't seemed
to drop off since the attacks. "There seems to be plenty of optimism
and enthusiasm among the sophomore class," Lynch said. "I haven't
seen any major changes."
Hall said that America's political and military circumstances
haven't come up often in his discussions with sophomores, and that the
number of interested students is very similar to last year's figure. "We're
just a bit smaller on the books for next year," he said.
"I'm not really nervous, because security is so high right now," sophomore Brittany Blanchette said. "I still want to study away, because experiencing another country is a such wonderful opportunity that I may not have again."