By: Rebecca Schwartz
Students who are currently traveling abroad have a lot to deal with. Not only are they trying to immerse themselves in culture, but they have to be wary of anti-American sentiment everywhere. Andrew Gardner, a University of Arizona student on a Fulbright scholarship in Bahrain, said it helps that many of the locals differentiate between individual Americans and the U.S. government. “They recognize that just because I’m an American, it doesn’t mean that I’m supporting the policies of our government,” he said. “They understand the notion of democracy and elections.”
On the other hand, Molly Hanrahan who’s traveling in London, tells people she is a Canadian to avoid problems. “The huge bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits just north of the square was in the process of being boarded up, in the hopes of diminishing any acts of vandalism,” Hanrahan said.
Despite Anti-American sentiments world-wide, most schools are not canceling their study abroad programs. However, schools are making it quite clear that the decision of participating is up to the students and their families alone. Yet quite a few schools, including Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., have reported a significant drop in study abroad applications. Iowa State University canceled a program planned for northern Cyprus before the recruiting process had even started. A visit to Turkey by La Salle University in Philadelphia was cancelled as well. Hamline University in St. Paul and St. Olaf College in Northfield have suspended study-abroad programs in Israel. Pat Quade, director of international and off-campus study for St. Olaf, said, “We feel we need this program more than ever before, yet we are operating under certain constraints. We can’t send students to a country with a U.S. State Department travel warning. The issues of security and risk are greater than we’re willing to take with students’ safety.”
This past summer, I went to Spain with the Experiment of International Living. It’s scary to think that only a year later I may not have gone because of our nation’s current situation. The particular program I attended focused on giving young adults the opportunity to study, learn, and gain experience in other parts of the world. I took classes, all taught in Spanish, about Spanish culture, literature, and history. I had an amazing time. While I certainly can’t say it was easy, it was an experience that has changed me for the better. The way things are today, I wonder if other people will miss out because of anti-American sentiment abroad.
Will students abort plans or continue on? Haley Arnold, a studio art major at University of Arizona, said, she ultimately didn’t change her plans to study in France. “The experience I’m going to have, I definitely don’t want to pass it up,” she said. “Even though I’m nervous about it, I know if I’m careful, I’ll be OK.” What would you do?
If you decide to continue on with plans to study abroad or simply travel this summer, here are steps you can take toward being safe.
In terms of breaking this anti American sentiment, try to think of it this way: we’re mini-ambassadors abroad and can change stereotypes just by being friendly.