Terror Across the Pond

12:22 PM


"Rome mourns the brothers of Paris." 
Photo taken by me, November 18, 2015.

Terrorism.

It's a word that is self-fulfilling simply when uttered from the mouth of another person. Just the thought of such an institution brings terror to whoever thinks about it. And it's a concept becoming all too familiar in the media nowadays. One can barely get through the day without hearing the acronym "ISIS" or hearing more arguments between Democrats and Republicans over how to tackle this growing demon.

Here in America, however, the threat may not seem as imminent. Undoubtedly, we've had our share of tragedies, which have resulted in the deaths of countless beloved family members and friends. But when compared to other nations across the pond, our security and overall safety seems to be greater.

It is sometimes hard as Americans to grasp the fear and suffering our neighbors across the Atlantic experience in the wake of such threats and attacks, where such attacks happen more regularly than they do in the States.

But what happens when the threats become more personal? What happens when you're no longer across the ocean, enough distance between you and the enemy to make you feel slightly at peace?

Imagine me, a 19-year-old college student,  prancing around Europe and trying to take everything in, when suddenly my carefree attitude is terminated by the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.

Now, let me make it clear that I am not in any way, shape or form trying to make these attacks about me. I feel deeply for the victims and the families of those lost in the attacks, and I realize that I am not directly associated with them by any means.

However, being thousands of miles away from my family in Europe definitely amplified the personal, emotional effects these attacks had on me. While I did have my close friends with me, we were all in the same boat: confused, afraid, and unsure of what measures to take to ensure our own safety while abroad.

For about the last two weeks of our study abroad experience, we received almost daily emails from the US Embassy instructing us not to go to certain landmarks or events in Rome on the occasion that an attack could happen in Rome. As someone who has not had any remotely personal experience with threats since the tragic 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, this resonated with me in an extremely negative way. I already struggle with anxiety, so for me, every subway ride and every visit to a major site left both my heart and mind racing.

Multiple students in my program decided to book an early flight home, only contributing to my already-excessive anxiety and making me wonder if I, too, should book it and get out of Rome as fast as possible. But something in me, perhaps my non-quitting attitude, convinced me to ride out the remaining two weeks. I realized that, if I went home early, the terrorists would have, in effect, won.

What many people fail to realize is that, just as the name suggests, terror is exactly what terrorists wish to incite. They want you to be so scared that you don't live in the figurative sense of the word. They want you to be too afraid to do everyday things, or even not so everyday things, like visiting cool monuments or different countries.

These threats are definitely not a joke, but we can't let them take over our lives. So be smart: watch your surroundings, and if a situation makes you uncomfortable, remove yourself from it. But if there's one thing being abroad during this chaotic, troublesome time taught me, it's to not let these terrorists dictate your life.

I don't regret my decision to study abroad despite the fear and anxiety I experienced. Honestly, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to sympathize more deeply with our European neighbors who cannot hop on a plane and escape from the current state of world affairs. While I recognize that I will never fully be able to understand the emotions and experiences of those across the globe during this tragic, scary time, I do feel that being in Rome widened my worldview and allowed me a glimpse into the magnitude of the state of world affairs.

And I'll never forget approaching the Colosseum while walking through the hipster neighborhood of Monti and seeing a large banner draped across a pedestrian bridge reading, "Roma piange i fratelli di Parigi." Just as Rome mourns the brothers of Paris lost in such tragic attacks, so too should the whole world stand in solidarity during these trying times.

I encourage everyone to take the leap and study abroad, because you will never view the world the same ever again.

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