Fear, sorrow and solidarity have been expressed throughout campus in the last week following terrorist attacks in Paris and other countries. For some students those emotions have hit a little closer to home.
“Terror attacks are the last thing you want to want to hear about a place you plan on moving to very soon,” MaryJo Contino, a UW-Milwaukee junior said.
She is majoring in French and Journalism and plans to study abroad in Paris in spring.
“French has been such a big part of my studies since 7th grade,” Contino said. “It’s always been a dream to go to France… this semester it’s almost like my classes have been second to preparing for study abroad.”
Here’s a slideshow of a vigil held in solidarity of the attacks. Photos by Megan Waterworth:
Contino said on November 13, the day of the attacks, she was waking up from a nap when she had 10 missed calls from her father. When she called him back he told her to turn on the news.
“I turned on the TV and I just kind of lost it… I was crying pretty much the entire night,” she said. “I had a really hard time watching the TV, seeing live footage reactions,so I took more to Twitter to watch everything unravel because I have less emotional attachment to words than I do to pictures, but all night I was watching it unravel.”
Her immediate reaction was her dream of going to Paris would be cancelled due to safety issues or delayed visas, but later learned that UW-Milwaukee will not be cancelling any Paris study abroad trips due to the attacks that happened earlier this month.
Most comforting to Contino was a conversation with her host mom in Paris assuring her that the French government would continue to issue visas, and insisting that the country is safe.
“She said she is really glad that people still want to go there,” Contino said. “She was talking about how strong France is and how they would never turn people away over something like this, especially students,”
Mark Eckman, Director of Study Abroad at the Center for International Education (CIE) has been in close contact with UWM students currently in Paris, and students planning on going to Paris.
“We try to provide a combined message of assurance, along with a healthy dose of some of the realities of the uncertain and unpredictable world that we live in,” he told the UWM Post. “We feel that all of the locations we operate our programs are safe.”
Eckman said that the protocol at CIE is contact students via email, along with the schools they are studying at to get confirmation of their safety as soon as they hear of any tragedies.
“When I hear about any emergency situation my first instinct is to ask ‘do we have any students there?'” Eckman said. “And when it’s somewhere like France guaranteed almost any day of the year we have students there. So the question wasn’t even ‘do we’, but ‘how many and where?'”
Chancellor Mark Mone sent out a campus-wide email roughly 12 hours after the attacks and confirmed that all six students and one faculty member abroad in Paris were safe.
Eckman said in his contact with the students currently abroad in Paris, he found they were shocked, but all wanted to stay and grieve with the city.
“None of them were interested in coming home,” he said. “They’ve got a lot invested in this. There was a particular draw for them to be in Paris, so to be able to be there and be a part of the city’s response to this I think is a very meaningful experience for them.”
Eckman said in an email to Contino, and other students planning to go to Paris in winter or spring the following:
“It is my sincere hope that the spirit of curiosity, the spark of adventure, and the thirst for knowledge were not extinguished by the tragic events being covered in the news. Instead, I hope you will join me in the belief that the exchange of ideas and cross-cultural learning that is intrinsic to the act of studying abroad is the best way to counteract the hate and intolerance that leads to the actions we’ve seen in France, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria.”