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Paris attacks prompt study abroad changes

By Paris Franz, For The Miami Student

On the night of the terrorist attacks in Paris, 10 Miami students were in the City of Light.

Three of the students were studying abroad through Miami's Luxembourg program and visiting Paris for the weekend. The other seven students were there through outside study abroad programs.

According to Assistant Provost Cheryl Young, three Luxembourg students chose to return home 11 academic days early. There are still 114 Miami study abroad students in Luxembourg.

Junior Carly McCain is currently studying at Miami's Luxembourg campus. On Nov. 13, she and two other Luxembourg students arrived in Paris for the weekend.

"I went to Paris that weekend because I have always dreamt of going," said McCain.

McCain and the other two students were not caught up in the violence. They only found out about the shootings when McCain's friend texted her to ask if she was okay.

McCain said she and her two friends were shocked by the attacks.

"It felt so unreal because it was such a normal start of a weekend for us. We went out to dinner, we were walking around just trying to get our weekend started just as the victims were," said McCain. "[It] was so crazy for us because people who fell victim to the attacks were people just like us who were just trying to go out on Friday after a week of school or work and do something fun."

Their shock was increased by their proximity to the attacks. The students had eaten dinner in the 10th arrondissement where attacks occurred later that night, and their hostel room was only 10 minutes away from the Bataclan concert hall.

"We couldn't believe what was happening - we were really relieved we weren't in those spots at those exact times," said McCain.

After the attacks, McCain and her fellow Luxembourg students were offered an option to return home early and still complete their Luxembourg courses for credit. As 11 academic days were left in the semester, the students would responsible for maintaining direct contact with Luxembourg faculty in order to complete their classes' assignments and final exams.

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McCain said she declined the option to return early.

"I have to be on high alert, but what happened in Paris won't stop me from living my life," McCain said.

Assistant Provost Cheryl Young leads Global Initiatives, the campus center responsible for globally focused efforts and programming, including International Student & Scholar Services and Study Abroad.

According to Young, she, Provost Phyllis Callahan and other Global Initiatives members are currently discussing whether any winter term or spring term studying abroad programs through the university will be canceled.

"Our focus the past two weeks has been on our students in Paris and in Europe and in Luxembourg - the students who are there right now, and we're only now getting to the 'what ifs' for winter term," said Young.

While currently the university has not canceled any winter term study abroad programs, this is subject to change as the Global Initiatives team examines and reviews each of the 38 winter term programs.

One of the criteria being considered in the review is the Worldwide Travel Alert issued by the U.S. Department of State on Nov. 23. Young said the alert warned about possible risk due to terrorist threats worldwide, not just in Europe.

"A lot of people are saying the need is specific to Europe; it is not - this is a worldwide alert," said Young. "So we're looking at all of our programs, not just the ones in Europe. We're looking at programs in Washington D.C., New York City, Florida, San Francisco - this is a worldwide caution and it does include the United States."

The team is also reviewing the itineraries of each program and assessing the risk of each city and specific location the program plans to travel to, in addition to the risk associated with the program's country or region.

Junior Olivia Vandervoort was in Paris last winter term during the Charlie Hebdo shooting on Jan. 7. Vandervoort said that although the shooting scared her, she felt safe to stay in Paris after the attack.

"It was initially scary when there were still fugitives and we were locked down, but we were very certain that we were in good hands, and I sort of looked at it like it was something that could have happened anywhere," said Vandervoort. "I was in a very safe city, and I was going to be smart about what I was doing and not do anything unsafe; overall I just felt very safe and felt like the program was looking out for us."

Young said she does not want students to study abroad if they feel unsafe. However, she hopes that students will not forfeit their goals due to fear.

"I think that what should guide your study abroad decision are your professional, personal and academic goals," said Young. "You can't predict what is going to happen on any given day, you can't let fear guide where you go and what you do. In my opinion, you shouldn't let fear guide where you choose to study abroad, it should be goals that decide where you study."