Elon University is proudly ranked as the No. 1 university in the United States for study abroad by the Institute of International Education (IIE). The ranking, announced in 2016, boasts that Elon sends more students abroad than any other masters-level university. IIE is not the first organization to praise Elon in this way — The Princeton Review, Business Insider and other college ranking lists have recognized Elon as the No. 1 school for study abroad.
Across campus, 83 percent of Elon students study abroad at least once — including Study USA programs such as Elon in Los Angeles, Elon in New York and others. Over Winter Term, the Global Education Center (GEC) offers more than 30 three weeklong programs. There are also several summer programs or travel-embedded classes students can go on so they are able to have a global experience regardless of their financial situation, major or other involvements.
Recently though, the fear of acts of terror has cast a shadow over the joys of going abroad. In recent years, acts of terror — including domestic terrorism here in the United States committed by Americans and acts of terror internationally committed by larger terror organizations — seemingly occur almost every other week. These tragedies can have great emotional impact on anyone, especially those in close proximity to the situation.
Elon students have been abroad when recent attacks happened in Brussels, Paris, London, New York and Barcelona. The university has done a great job in responding and checking on the mental well-being of these students immediately after these attacks have occured, but better support is needed in the long term.
There is no real way for students to prevent or protect themselves from terror attacks. To view these attacks as a reason to avoid an abroad opportunity would be giving into the psychological and emotional war that terrorism is all about. All students should feel empowered to go abroad and experience the world outside of their university, but it is important that there is a support system in place for students if an attack were to occur.
Even though this issue remains prominent, it is unclear what the university is doing to prepare students for the possibility of these attacks. On the GEC website, there are lists of advice for students at all points of the study abroad process — including the planning, application, preparation and return. In the preparation stage, it outlines how students can prepare themselves emotionally and mentally for the transition into going abroad, as well as information needed in terms of health and safety while abroad.
The website does not clearly outline what students should do if they encounter an act of terrorism abroad or who to talk to if they need help. With Elon students being thousands of miles away, it is crucial that the faculty of the GEC works to reach all members of our community, especially in times of violence and danger.
Experiencing an act of terrorism while abroad can be a deeply troubling, anxiety-inducing experience, and our students need to be supported. This support could come in the form of an extra orientation session, counselors available via email to talk with students or an educational opportunity for students to learn more about the scope and impact of terrorism. Whatever it is, we must recognize that acts of terror are possibilities when students study abroad, and we should be taking this threat seriously without inducing fear into students.