Study-abroad programs are designed to expose students to ideas and cultures different from their own. They are a soft-diplomacy tool, a chance for young people to share positive exchanges with students in parts of the world that aren’t always fond of the United States, places with different philosophies for governing and doing business. Studying abroad is not supposed to be easy or comfortable. But it’s also not supposed to be fatal.
A series of recent terrorist attacks and uprisings around the world in the past few weeks have left several students dead. Last week, Nicolas Leslie, a 20-year-old UC Berkeley student taking courses in France, was among the more than 80 people killed during a terrorist attack in Nice. Another Berkeley student, Tarishi Jain, perished during the attacks earlier this month in Bangladesh, where she was interning through a university program. Earlier this year, the body of an Italian doctoral student was found in Cairo. It showed signs of torture. A University of Wisconsin at Madison student recently turned up dead in Rome.
So, in the aftermath of unrest in Turkey, terror attacks in places as varied as Brussels and Bangladesh, and continued instability in places like Egypt, universities are attempting to walk a fine line between keeping students safe and promoting the global exchanges that advocates say could ultimately help reduce such acts of intolerance. “It is actually more important than ever today not to do things completely out of fear,” said Wagaye Johannes, the project director of a campaign to double the number of U.S. students who go abroad at the nonprofit Institute of International Education.