Studying Abroad – Is it a Risk Worth Taking?

I envision myself strolling through bustling cities, admiring renowned artwork and magnificent architecture, indulging in new cuisine, and writing for She’s Fit to Lead (of course) in Europe’s quintessential cafes. From the mountains of Interlaken to the beaches of Santorini, I dream of experiencing all facets of life abroad. I finally have the opportunity to pursue this wanderlust and study in Europe for a semester, but if I’m being quite honest, I’m not as thrilled as I should be. The fear of my safety during this recent rise in publicized terrorism has consumed me. Although some of my friends claim I’m being melodramatic, I can’t be the only one who finds this unsettling.

I found myself reading Wendy Perrin’s “7 Keys to Traveling Without Fear Despite Terrorist Attacks.” Perrin, an award-winning travel reporter and keynote speaker, presents a realistic perspective on the topic and reassures readers that this fear is disproportionate to the risk of being an attack victim. Perrin offers several statistics demonstrating just how diminutive the probability is. “Your risk of being killed in a car crash (1 in 19,000), drowning in your bathtub (1 in 800,000), or being struck by lightning (1 in 5.5 million) far exceed your risk of dying from terrorism (1 in 20 million).” The U.S. State Department also reports that the number of U.S. citizens killed by terrorism overseas during the period of 2001-2013 was 350 compared to 3,030 killed in the U.S. by terrorism. Furthermore, the leading cause of death for American travelers overseas is, actually, motor vehicle accidents.

Perrin recognizes that we sense less fear with risks we have some control over, such as driving or winter sports. This was a pivotal realization for me. My daily life involves various risks, yet these risks are not broadcasted to the extent of terrorism and do not provoke the same fear. So, why should I allow these attacks to have such a significant impact on me?

Mass media certainly doesn’t help to eradicate this fear and some may voice that it is making matters worse for apprehensive students. Terrorist groups thrive off of the internet and news. So, why do we continue to fuel what keeps these organizations alive? Realistically, the media isn’t going anywhere nor will it abstain from covering impactful news stories to spare individual feelings. Despite my occasional bitterness towards this rise in publicized terrorism, I do encourage people to stay informed with regards to the outside world, particularly when determining where to travel. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that even with technological progression and increased news coverage, the probability of falling victim to an attack still remains exceptionally low.

To all students contemplating an abroad experience, we need to take advantage of the programs our schools provide for us and consider the fundamental purpose: immersing ourselves into new cultures and in turn acquiring valuable skills for our future endeavors.

President Obama’s remarks following the 2015 Paris Attacks dispense the words of reassurance we all need to hear. “We cannot and will not succumb to fear, nor can we allow fear to divide us, for that’s how terrorists win,” he stated. “We cannot give them the victory of changing how we go about living our lives.” Preach.

We cannot allow terrorism to restrict us from such an enlightening and life-changing experience. We should be relishing our time abroad, not living in fear. Helen Keller said it best, “your life is a grand adventure or it is nothing.”

To read more content by Annemarie Watkins and other confident and impressive young women, check out She's Fit to Lead, a community for the next leaders of our generation.