After the terrorist attack hit Brussels earlier this year, the Study Abroad office has decided to prohibit students from traveling to Belgium while abroad this semester.
Brussels was the site of a March 22 terrorist attack, which included three separate bombings – two at the main airport and one at a metro station – and ended with 32 deaths and over 300 injuries, the deadliest attack in the country’s history.
“After the terrorist incident there last spring, we decided to prohibit students to travel to Belgium while they’re officially a part of an ACU study abroad program,” said Stephen Shewmaker, director for the Center of International Education. “That was true this summer and will continue on this fall. We might decide to change that, but we felt there were some things unique to Belgium that worked into that decision.”
Shewmaker said his office will continue to review the risks and general security of Belgium to determine how long they’ll have this rule in place. However, the SA office will allow students to pass through Belgium on their way to a different destination because the geographical location of the country would make it too difficult to prohibit traveling through it altogether.
“In terms of spending significant amounts of time there, spending an overnight there, that’s what we’re not allowing now,” Shewmaker said. “We’ll do that by communicating that to students and vetting their travel plans that they submit to us before they go on free travel.”
Shewmaker said the office discussed prohibiting travel to France, a country that has also seen several attacks in the past year, but decided not to.
Alani Peters, junior computer science major from Edmond, Oklahoma, traveled to France in July after finishing up with the study abroad department in Leipzig. She was in Paris just days before the attack in Nice, but said she never really felt unsafe.
“There were a ton of military people around, especially because of the Eurocup,” Peters said. “There were tanks in the street and some of that did make me a little bit nervous because there were so many military, but for the most part I felt pretty safe.”
The spring study abroad group in Leipzig, Germany, will not take a class trip to Turkey like they have in the past and will instead opt for a trip to Greece, Shewmaker said.
“There’s an active State Department travel warning in Turkey and ACU policy is that we don’t travel officially with groups to places where there’s a State Department travel warning, unless we feel like there’s a compelling reason to do so, or the risks can be significantly mitigated in a way that we feel like justifies waving that policy,” Shewmaker said.
This semester’s study abroad groups leave the country on Wednesday with 24 students going to Oxford, England, and seven going to the revamped program in Montevideo, Uruguay.
“It’s been a challenging year for travel to Europe with many events that have happened in places and we hope that security officials there will be able to get things under control,” Shewmaker said. “Not only so that American students and their families can feel good about studying abroad, but also so that people who live in those places won’t have to worry about it themselves.”