Student Thoughts: Terrorism breeds ‘needless agoraphobia’

Aubrey Carr/Contributing writer

On Jan. 12, ISIS bombed Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul, Turkey, resulting in the death of 10 and injury of 15, many of whom were German tourists. It was not long after the news released that there were postings on social media saying, as one person wrote, “So, it’s probably good we don’t go to Turkey just yet.”

Gratitude is indeed in order when dodging a bullet, of course.  That said, when gratefulness evolves into a travel-based form of agoraphobia, fear wins and there are parts of life that get left behind. Studying abroad can be a great introduction to experiencing the world and one of the most rewarding events in a college career. FIU has an extensive collection of programs and partner universities located around the globe that allow for opportunities to travel in a safe and controlled environment, even in areas of the world that are not as Westernised.

FIU’s numerous study abroad options include an exchange student program to Istanbul at Bahçeşehir University, where as with all exchange programs, students can attend for a semester or the whole academic year; a short Hospitality-focused trip in December to Dubai, and an exchange program at the American University of Dubai. These are both critical areas to the United States, which means both experience in addition to intimate knowledge of these places –  especially fluency in Turkish or Arabic (among other critical languages, such as Russian and Chinese) – can help land an incredible job in government work or otherwise make for a strong candidate in numerous other vocational areas.

Janina Kruzel, a freshman at FIU, is an international relations major with a focus on the Middle East and hopes to spend a year studying in Istanbul despite daunting news reports. “I’ve always wanted to travel the world and study and live in more or less ‘dangerous’ places – the Middle East especially. Acts of terror have affected my thinking of traveling there but have not swayed my decision.” Kruzel stated.

Kano Miyajima, a junior exchange student from Japan, mentioned her own anxieties when it came to studying in America for the 2015-2016 academic year. She talked about the sparks of terrorism that have involved the US and her concern especially when considering ISIS’s role. Additionally, she said, “In Japan we can’t have guns, so I was worried about a school shooting.”

More than physical worries, there was the issue of whether or not she would adapt to the culture well. Japanese is not a commonly spoken language in the US. There are also large cultural differences like how much personal space one should have, a meter is customary in Japan Miyajima had said, and greetings changing from bowing and a handshake to a kiss on the cheek and close speaking proximity.

“Study abroad is very important,” she asserted. “You get to know other cultures, other people’s ways of thinking [because] there are so many people [in America] who have different perspectives.” She mentioned that in Japan there is a narrow way of thinking, and everyone is expected to be more similar, more group-oriented than distinct and independent. The celebration of the latter is what she really loves about America and she is hoping to be able to come back and potentially work in Miami professionally.

Irrespective of whether one stays in their home country or ventures off into the world, there are always concerns and certain precautions should be taken to prevent unnecessary damages. It is safe to assume that if a country does not hold your home country’s embassy, buying a plane ticket and booking a hotel may be in poor taste. Do not let the potential harm in the world take control of any travel dreams you may have and crush them.

I say this not out of naïvety but from an adventurous heart that recognises that there is danger and mortality; but one cannot spend their life running away from every potential danger. It is far better to die having lived your dreams than to hide from the prospect of danger only to die anyway and without having had grand adventures, without having seen more of the incredible planet we are so fortunate to inhabit.

There will always be danger. There will always be bad people. These are unavoidable truths and regardless of whether one stays in his hometown or is instead a modern nomad, these truths do not pay respect to geographical or political barriers. Nevertheless, it is pointless to stay holed up in one’s comfort zone.

Explore, learn new cultures and foreign languages, rethink your philosophy, add to your outlook on life and broaden your mind. There is too much to see in the world, too many people to meet, too many stories yet to be told and too many stars, sunsets, and above all, experiences to let the fear take your hand and hold you back. So go; be safe, but do not be afraid.

Image taken from Flickr: