Last weekend I spent three days on a wonderful weekend trip in Rome with school. We traveled everywhere and I felt like I saw just about every major thing and more in Rome. I spent hours in the Vatican. I stared in awe at the Sistine Chapel. I imagined gladiators in the Colosseum. I explored the Roman Forum. I saw enough columns and arches to last a life time. I walked over 25 miles, wished in fountains, ate gelato and spaghetti… It was an amazing weekend.
But each fun day of touring and exploring was book-ended with the terrible news of the attacks in Paris. I woke up early Saturday morning to “#prayforparis” all over social media, and developing news stories flooding my news feed. News of the attacks was the unwanted topic of conversation during meals. I went to bed watching news, as more and more information of the attacks came in. I watched the death count rise, literally by the minute. I read and heard firsthand accounts from people who survived. I heard the news of a CSU Study Abroad student who died at the restaurant. I checked social media, waiting for news of the people I knew were in Paris. I heard rumors of other planned attacks on Rome and London, and tried and failed to not let them affect me. I was worried. I was sad. And I was scared.
This is not the first terrorist attack in my lifetime by any means. I was in first grades when the Twin Towers fell in New York; I don’t remember anything about it. I was too young, and besides, it was across the country, nearly three thousand miles from where I lived. But now I’m 20, junior in college, living in Europe away from my family and anything familiar. Paris is just 550 miles from Florence.
With all the news that keeps coming in, this attack, and others happening all over the world, are feeling more and more real, and scarier at the same time. In the US it’s easy to hear of the things happening all over the world, but they seem to disappear from our minds as quickly as they come; it’s on the other side of the world, and doesn’t affect our everyday lives. But here, this attack and all the others, are now part of life here. It’s on the news; it’s still the topic of conversation. It affects our lives directly here, in a way that it wouldn’t if we were still back in California. It’s a lot harder to not dwell on it or think of what could happen next, but all I can do is try.
For those thinking of studying abroad:
Don’t let fear keep you from the amazing experience that studying abroad is. There’s always going to be things happening all over the world, whether it’s terrorist attacks or natural disasters, and there’s no way to predict when or where something might happen. You can’t live in the fear of them.
But you can choose not to be ignorant or uninformed. If you’re thinking of traveling or studying abroad, start researching. Learn what’s going on in the country you’re going to. What are their politics like? How do they get along with other countries? How do cultures differ? Also know what’s going on in the world around you. It’s a lot better to understand and be prepared for what you might experience when you go somewhere you’re unfamiliar with.