One of the most common adjectives used to describe the increased numbers of terrorist attacks, threats and high alerts across mainland Europe is “surreal”, a bizarre mix of fact and fantasy. It’s too easy to feel separated from the horror you saw when attacks hit Paris on 13 November 2015, or Brussels just last month. But what happens when you’re hundreds of miles from home and must contend with the effects of terrorism on your year abroad?
We spoke to three Warwick students to find out.
Eloise Millard, third year English Literature. Studying in Berlin.
The risk is everywhere – including London and the US. But the likelihood of getting caught up in anything is very small.
“I definitely feel more anxious, especially since there seems to be some rumour circulating that some people that they arrested in connection with the Paris Attacks had plans to to attack Alexanderplatz in Berlin.”
In February, two people were arrested on suspicion of plotting terror attacks in the German capital, allegedly at Alexanderplatz and Checkpoint Charlie, a former crossing point between East and West Germany.
“The day after the the Paris Attacks, I went to Alexanderplatz and I felt on edge. It made me want to avoid going out into these types of areas, because I feel they will be targeted more.”
“I’ve had absolutely no contact from Warwick. Granted, Berlin has not been attacked. But the Study Abroad team never contact us. They are absolutely useless with everything.”
When asked what advice she would offer to students that are either preparing for or considering a year abroad who may be concerned about the impact of the rising terror threat, Eloise said: “I would urge anybody doing a year abroad to not let recent events put them off doing it. It’s the best experience of your life and invaluable in terms of employment. The risk is everywhere – including London and the US. But the likelihood of getting caught up in anything is very small.”
Johan Byttner, second year Management. Studying in Paris.
People are generally more concerned about reprisals against these communities and even more intense alienation.
“I’m at the other end of Paris and hardly ever go where the attacks happened. However, the area is densely populated by migrants and people are generally more concerned about reprisals against these communities and even more intense alienation. Alienation has led to painful riots in the past and people are keen to avoid that.
“Memories of the infamous Paris riots of 2005, where groups of second-generation migrants burned schools and cars following the death of two local youths and electrocution of one more during an arrest. The event ignited pre-existing tensions regarding police harrassment and cultural alienation.
“We also see the ugly side of the hostility. We don’t always feel safe going home at night. If people felt welcome in our communities, there would be less shady stuff going on, less anger. Terrorism jeopardises that.”
“Communication has worked fine with the University, I have no complaints.”
To students looking towards going abroad, Johan offers the following advice: “Don’t worry. Go abroad so that you can meet different people and learn to see the humanity in everyone. That way, you can be a part of making European communities more peaceful.”
Anees Anwar, third year Engineering. Studying in Istanbul.
The inevitability is that terrorism can affect anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Knowing this, there is very little to be feared from terrorism
“People will always need their simits baked and çays to drink. Over spring break, I have had an amazing time exploring the streets of the old city. Never has there been a sense of tension or hesitation from a passer-by. Istanbul is a truly beautiful city, and the people do not fear terrorism.”
The current Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice for Turkey states that there are several terrorist groups active in the country, including PKK, TAK (both Kurdish separatist) and Daesh. There have been a number of incidents and attacks in Istanbul.
“The inevitability is that terrorism (or rather, death) can occur to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Knowing this, there is very little to be feared from terrorism. Even having passed the locations of two of the terror attacks only hours before they happened in March and November, it has had little impact on my time here in Istanbul.”
On 19 March, five people – including the perpetrator – were killed and 36 more injured in a suicide bombing in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, while in November, police foiled a planned attack on the Turk Telekom Arena. Another bombing took place on 12 January 2016, in which 10 people were killed.
“I have received emails from the International Office some while after each bombing. I reassured them that myself and the other Warwick student studying here are safe and still having a very good time.”
Like Eloise and Johan, Anees wanted to remind readers that terror is not the only threat we face, and should never stop us from taking opportunities.
“You can trip over your laces and smash your head pretty easily anywhere in the world! Or fall down the stairs, or have a helicopter land on your head… Life and death are inevitable and we can never guarantee anything. Live in the frame of the moment and do what makes you happy! If what you want is to spend nine months exploring a new city, learning a different culture, and meeting the most interesting people from around the world, do not let anything stop you.”