U students make study abroad plans despite terrorism

Kate Schoeller wants to study abroad next year.

Although last Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., frighten some air travellers, Schoeller won’t let them stop her from going to Latin America.

“I’m not going to let something like that scare me away from my dream,” the sociology major said.

Schoeller echoes the thoughts of many University students whose travel plans remain unaffected by the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I’m still going home to Kansas for Christmas,” freshman Kevin Hahn said. “It still feels safe to fly.”

Global Campus, the University study abroad office, reiterated that students should be able to travel without fearing for their safety.

“We don’t have any information that leads us to believe that students are at risk when they travel,” said Global Campus director Al Balkcum.

If anything, Balkcum said, the approximately 400 students currently studying abroad have received support and sympathy from foreign citizens.

“I have several friends who are studying abroad and whom I am in contact with, and they say that everything’s fine,” said Gina Hunziker, a junior focusing on global communications. “They don’t even notice a difference in how people treat them from last week to this week.”

If University students are affected by the attacks, Global Campus programs provide counseling and other services by professionals.

“We’ve had resident directors set up counseling services and informal coffee hours to talk about what happened and how the students feel about it,” said Mickey Slind, field director for Butler University’s Institute for Study Abroad.

The institute co-sponsors study abroad programs with the University.

Each University study abroad program is required to have an emergency contingency plan, Slind said. This plan is enacted during events such as natural disasters, health hazards, criminal activities or war. Aspects of the plan range from on-site grief counseling to emergency evacuation.

If an event occurs that requires students to return home, the University will bring them back immediately.

Balkcum said evacuation is the last resort.

“If we’re pulling students out of Mexico to put them in an airport where they’ll be an even bigger target, evacuating might not be the best idea. Sometimes it’s better to leave them where they are,” he said.

Balkcum also noted that no students are studying in controversial countries. While the Global Campus does not offer pre-packaged study programs in the Middle East, in past years students have created programs to study in Israel or Jordan.

Interest in future study abroad programs has not dipped since the Sept. 11 attacks, Balkcum said.

“If anything, I’d say the number has gone up at the University last year,” he said.

Last year, 1,200 University students participated in study abroad programs – almost double the number of participating students five years ago.

Balkcum expects the number of study abroad students to increase again this year, barring what he called “an unforeseeable dramatic impact on American travel” or a sharp and continued downturn in the economy.

Until then, University students continue to schedule their travel plans.

“I’m going to Austria this spring,” Hunziker said. “This hasn’t changed my mind at all.”


Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]. She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3236