Why Terrorism Will Not Stop Me From Traveling: A Student’s Reflection on the Paris Attacks

Written by Drew November 30, 2015

So you’ve heard about these radical terrorist groups, right? The groups responsible for the recent attacks on Paris? The groups that have your friends and family concerned about your safety? The groups that, more than likely, has you reconsidering your future study abroad adventure? You’ve heard about them, right?

Now stop.


Take a breath.

My initial reaction to these terrorist attacks, as you can imagine, was fear. As an American studying abroad, I honestly feared for my life. More than anything, I was fearful for my loved ones who were unaware of my safety.

My following reaction was anger. How can anyone carry out such a heinous act against innocent civilians? I refuse to read any of the survivor stories, but I cannot begin to imagine what any of these scenes were like.

After these initial emotions, I began to think more logically. I began to think of one of the most important aspects of being abroad. I thought about safety. My safety and the safety of my friends.

And I realized that throughout the entire duration of my study abroad program, I have felt overwhelming safe. 

Our study abroad program (CIMBA) emphasizes safety throughout its program. Our advisors make sure they know where we are. They make sure they know how to reach us. They make sure they know how to help us if any type of danger were to occur. I’ve never felt anything but completely comfortable with the safety measures that my study abroad program incorporates.

And you know what? Following the Paris attacks, I still feel safe. Sounds crazy, right?

The way I look at the terrorists attacks on Paris is that it is an individual event in an enormous city. Paris is a city with a population of over 2 million people and experiences 32.3 million visitors per year. I’m no mathematics major, but that’s a lot of people.

Tragically, 130 people died as a result of the terrorist attacks on Paris. 130 out of the million and millions of people that flood Paris every day.

Thinking realistically, the chances of a terrorist attack occurring in the city you are in are low. The chances of a terrorist attack occurring in the location of that city you are in are even lower. The chances you are in the location at the exact time of a terrorist attack are even lower.

Overall, the chances of you being involved in any terrorist attack are extremely, extremely low.

I recently came across some information regarding the likeness of being involved in a terrorist attack. That information suggested the numerous aspects that you are more likely to be killed by than terrorism. It’s beautifully titled “Calm Down … You Are Much More Likely To Be Killed By Boring, Mundane Things Than Terrorism.” If you still are worried about being involved in a terrorist attack, give this article a read.

So now … have I put your mind at ease at least a little bit?

Even as a result of the recent terrorist attacks, my mentality on safety is still the same as it was coming into the program. My mindset involves being aware about wherever I’m at and understanding the situation I’m in, regardless of recent events and the level of security. If you complete these tasks, you’ll be prepared to be safe when you travel no matter what the scenario. 

However, now that these attacks have occurred and terrorism watch is high, I have also become more cautious and aware of my surroundings while traveling.

It’s no secret what places would be on a terrorist’s radar. Public transit. Nightclubs. Concerts. Sporting events. Tourist spots. Basically, any place that incorporates a large number of people will be a more likely target. Although unlikely to occur, I understand that these places are a potential target. I understand where I am, what I’m doing, and who I am with.

Along with this notion, I continue to check in and assure my parents that I’m safe. When I arrive somewhere, I let my parents know. I assure them I’m going to be okay. You know why? Because I’m smart about where and how I travel, and I know I’m going to be okay. I don’t doubt that for a second. 

What I’ve learned more than anything about this study abroad trip is that your loved ones worry about you more than you realize. It is also sometimes scarier for them than it is for you simply because of the distance. You know that the CIMBA campus is safe because you live it every day, but they only see the bad news so for your parents, it can seem a lot more frightening. I know my parents are continuously worried about me, especially when I travel. However, I know I’m going to be safe. I know I’m going to be okay. So I continue to assure my parents of the safety measures I’m taking and I’m 100% confident about my well-being.

Aside from my mindset of safety and communication, I continue to do one simple thing: Live my life, have fun, and enjoy my time abroad because living life in fear isn’t really living at all. Seriously, it’s as simple as that.

To conclude this post, I would like to share a story about my mindset prior to traveling to Brussels the weekend of the Paris attacks.

I woke up early on Saturday morning in order to catch our taxi to the airport. Prior to rolling out of bed, I launched Twitter and read the horrific news.

Paris. Terrorist attacks. Numerous deaths involved.

At that moment, I second guessed traveling to Brussels that weekend. Regardless, I decided to go. And do you know why?

Because I refuse to let terrorism dictate any aspect of my life. Not my travel. Not my emotions. Not anything.

And you shouldn’t either.