Terrorism: My opinion from being in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015

Photo credit: Jordan Rodrigues

Photo credit: Jordan Rodrigues

Terrorism: It’s a word that has been on the forefront of American conversation and political debate for the past 15 years. In the past year terrorism has rocked some of the world’s major cities including Beirut, Paris, Istanbul, Nairobi, San Bernardino, Jakarta and most recently Brussels and Lahore.

Having felt the effects of terrorism firsthand, I know how scared and helpless a person can feel, especially when studying abroad.

Despite this, I now feel very strongly that we can’t let terrorism scare us. Making us hide from the world and instilling fear is one of the main goals of terrorist groups.

Although terrorist attacks are occurring all over the world, we can’t stop traveling and studying abroad. Not only do the terrorists succeed at scaring us, it also damages tourism revenue.

Nov. 13, 2015 was a cold and cloudy day in Paris, France. I spent the day at the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe and Notre Dame, casually eating French pastries and macaroons throughout the day.

At night, I strolled through the hilly nightlife district of Montmartre. Unbeknownst to me, an atrocious terrorist attack was ensuing in the city below.

I walked back to my hostel alone only to return to a lockdown situation. I then stayed up with my roommates till 3 a.m., checking CNN and assuring family and friends I was OK.

I could not however, assure them I was completely safe. Explosives and random shootings were occurring throughout Paris and nobody knew where they would strike next. I was only a mile from the cafe shootings and stadium bombings.

I first felt fear, followed by anger and then all I wanted was to go home, which is exactly what the terrorists wanted.

Terrorists also got what they wanted when I cancelled a trip to Istanbul. It was supposed to be a fun-filled weekend trip to the city that unites Europe and Asia. But I cancelled it after the Dec. 1, 2015 metro bombing.

Immediately after cancelling the trip I was full of regret. Although I was advised by most people to do so, I felt defeated once again.

Cancelling trips not only makes one feel defeated, it also hurts the economy. According to Forbes, in 2014 Istanbul was the seventh biggest tourist destination in the world. In the past year Istanbul has recorded a 21 percent drop in tourism and bookings.

In addition to being the subject of multiple terrorist attacks, Istanbul’s economy is suffering. The city relies heavily on tourism as a source of income.

This fact only makes terrorists’ presence in the city feel that much stronger.

The attacks in Brussels, Belgium, have created even more fear of global terrorism. Chico State has study abroad programs in every country neighboring Belgium. Although it may seem scary, terrorism is not a good reason to cancel or rethink going on the adventure of a lifetime abroad.

Chico State has one of the best study abroad programs in the entire country. Not taking advantage of it because of fear would be a shame.

Jennifer Gruber, coordinator of Chico State Study Abroad and International Exchange, was recently quoted by The Orion as saying, “International exchange and cultural competency is needed now more than ever, and fear of the unknown is not a valid reason for halting personal and academic pursuits.”

Instead of cancelling a trip or even going as far as cancelling studying abroad, knowing what to do in an emergency abroad can alleviate fears.

Conde Nast Traveler writer Cynthia Drescher gives pointers on how to be prepared:

· Register with the U.S. travel department so the government knows of your whereabouts.

· Be sure to have international calling.

· Use Facebook’s safety check-in feature.

· Use The U.S. travel advisory website to get informed about what is going on wherever you are traveling.

Ultimately, if we want to do our part in the fight against terrorism we cannot give in to fear and uncertainty.

Luckily, my feelings of wanting to go home faded quickly after my trip to Paris. I realized I needed to stay strong and keep pursuing my academics and dream of studying abroad. Unfortunately, it took cancelling a trip to Istanbul to fully realize just how resilient we should be in the fight against terrorism.

Don’t let terrorism stop you from doing whatever it is you want to do, going wherever you want to go or studying abroad. If you do, you will regret it.

Alex Horne can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.