Why is international study still a good idea, despite the threat of extremism?
Â It’s through education that we will eradicate terrorism or extremism; that is the way that we allow our students to develop human relationships with people who are different from them. By establishing relationships and understanding ‘the other,’ barriers are brought down.
Recognizing that there are similarities across cultures allows us to find common ground and to look for consensus and cooperation. Education abroad is the way that we can give our students the opportunity to experience that firsthand. When they’re studying in another country, they have the engagement, they’re interacting, they can view the world from a different perspective, they get a deeper understanding not only of the other, but of themselves.
That’s the mission of CIEE–we want our students to study abroad because we want them to transform themselves, to go down a different path in their lives so that they can make a change in the world. CIEE is a consortium of 350 universities, which send their students on CIEE’s programs as if they were their own. We have 23 students at the Paris Study Center. We also had 55 students from other study centers who were in Paris at the time [of the attacks].
How did CIEE respond during the attacks?
We have an emergency messaging protocol in place. Within a couple of hours we were able to locate all our students. We also were able to work with our study center directors in other cities who knew–because we have a reporting structure that we require students [to have] when they leave site–thatÂ they need to record their travel plans. Immediately, we knew how many students were in cities that could possibly be affected.
There’s an instant messaging protocol that goes out, and then we have a health safety security team that works on messaging, so once we know that all the students are OK, we work on a series of messaging to, for example, study abroad advisers, universities, emergency contact 1, emergency contact 2; so we work on keeping as many people in the loop as possible. We also have a 24/7 hotline on which we recorded many phone calls over the weekend from concerned family members, friends, and so on, so we were able to field those calls as well.
Ensuring student safety is our cornerstone. We have orientation sessions where we work with students on being very cognizant of what’s going on around them; understanding behavior, understanding what it looks like if you abuse alcohol, and bystander interventions. Our concerns around student safety are more on a personal level and not the general threat of terrorism. We’re being naÃ¯ve if we think we can protect ourselves from terrorism, because that’s inherently against the whole point. Terrorism is indiscriminate and designed to be impactful. If you think of the targets in Paris–they could have blown up the Eiffel Tower. We’re not national security, we’re not the CIA, but within the parameters that we have, we have the security and support of governments whose goal is to keep their people safe as well. It’s a challenge, but it’s more of a philosophical one than one where we can set out specific steps for students beyond ensuring their own personal safety in our programs.
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