Study Abroad is (Still) Worth the Risk
The November 13th attack in Paris killed 130 people and was the worst violence suffered in Paris since World War II.  Among those killed was American exchange student Nohemi Gonzalez, a junior at Cal State Long Beach.  As a student who has always planned on studying abroad, the recent terror attacks in Europe and across the globe have been unnerving.  Students and their parents are now more aware than ever of the risks of leaving the relative safety of their stateside college campuses.  This fear, while understandable, has not—and should not—substantially deter students from pursuing the opportunity of studying abroad.

According to the Institution of International Education, studying abroad for credit by American students has risen from 130,000 to more than 300,000 annually over the last 15 years.  These record-breaking numbers might be primed for a downturn.  But is there really a greater chance of American students being killed in international terror incidents than in terror attacks, mass shootings, or even freak accidents in the United States?

The terror attacks of March 22nd in Brussels targeted centers of mass transit.  According to CNBC, “Soft targets are called soft for a reason— they're easy for a terrorist to strike, and nearly impossible for well meaning businesses and individuals to defend.”  Several American institutions cut short their study abroad programs in the wake of the Belgian incidents.  For example, Texas Tech and Freed-Hardman University both recently suspended study abroad programs in Belgium and required their students to return.  It is still too soon, however, to know whether there will be a stark fall in study abroad programs or applicant pools.  According to information collected by the Institute of International Education, there was no decline in American students studying in Spain (or Europe) following the bombings of 2004 and 2005.

Although the threat of terrorism appears omnipresent, students should employ reasonable safeguards that do not involve staying locked in a dormitory.  Many universities, including the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, were already employing communication protocols when the terror attacks happened in Brussels.  Since phones were jammed, the university made contact with all students via email and social media.  According to Next Avenue, a news source related to PBS, students should take the following precautions:

    1. Be familiar with your surroundings and be alert.

    2. Review U.S. Department of State travel information for your travel destination.

    3. Register with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

    4. Be aware of the nearest U.S. Embassy.

    5. Make sure to have the contact information for your study abroad advisors and local emergency services.

    6. Make sure you have a cell phone that works.
If American students are deterred from studying abroad, then they are playing into the goals of the terrorists – to intimidate and spread terror.  Thus, it is important for Americans students to rationally look at the facts.  According to the Quebec-based Centre for Research on Globalization, one is much more likely to die in a car accident or a freak accident than in a terror attack.  According to political scientist John Mueller and civil engineer Mark Stewart, the risk of dying in a terror attack is 1 in 3.5 million.  Compare this to the risk of dying in accidents associated with the following appliances: 1 in 19,000 for a car, 1 in 950,000 for a bathtub, 1 in 1.5 million for a home appliance, 1 in 2 million for a deer, and 1 in 2.9 million for a commercial airliner.  

Terrorism appears to be the new normal, at least in Western Europe.  Is it frightening?  Yes.  But this small incremental increase in risk is not worth missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

  • Richard

    I agree. A wise businessman in the Caribbean named Sir Kyffin Simpson always said that the key to success is progression and humility, and clearly he’s done very well for himself as a self made man!

  • John Andrews

    The Airgain IPO launches this week, and they’re a one-brand company.

    Some investors don’t think it’s a good stock though:


Exclusive Interview with Steve Wunker, Managing Director, New Markets Advisors
Steve Wunker is the founder and managing director of New Markets Advisors, a multinational strategy consulting firm based in Boston, and the author of his latest book Jobs to be Done. Steve started his business career at Bain & Co., moved on to lead the development of one of the world’s first smartphones with the …
Exclusive Interview with Rajiv Bala, Principal, S3 Ventures
Rajiv Bala serves as a principal at S3 Ventures, one of the largest venture capital firms in Texas, which specializes in early-stage investing in enterprise software startups. Rajiv began his career as an applications manager at a group in Texas Instruments. Rajiv holds a BS in Electrical Engineering and a BA in Economics from Rice …
The Impact of Including Athletics in Your Resume: Three Professional Perspectives
A good resume highlights one’s ability and achievements and is simultaneously eye-catching and memorable. This fact is hardly groundbreaking. The art of curating the perfect resume isn’t an easy task; creating the ideal balance of likeability and hireability is difficult, especially when you might not have extensive work experience or groundbreaking accomplishments. The big question …