Students feel safe to travel, despite violence abroad

by Kelsey KnutsonStaff Writer

In light of recent incidents overseas in Germany and Ireland, Simpson students may be worried about traveling abroad.

With a school shooting in Germany and a shooting in Ireland, two countries where Simpson students are currently residing and heading for May Term respectively, safety has become a top priority for Simpson students.

Two British soldiers were shot and killed and two injured by gunfire outside of Belfast, Ireland and two weeks ago. In Germany, there was a school shooting 20 minutes away from where some Simpson students are living.

According to Steve Griffith, dean of academic affairs and travel adviser, when traveling anywhere students should always be careful of their surroundings.

“Typically, when you’re abroad you try not to stand out as an American,” Griffith said. “You should be extra careful of your environment.”

Simpson’s travel advisers are not overly concerned with the incidents in Germany and Ireland because they are both isolated and specific cases. They are monitoring the situations and keeping Simpson students and parents informed via e-mail.

“It’s important that if someone is concerned with what is going on, reading that area’s local newspaper will give them a better idea of what is happening.” Griffith said.

Griffith also said that when traveling abroad there is always a plan B. He said that it is important for students to fit in with that particular surrounding and focus on being a student, not a tourist. Learning is the first objective.

“You want to be a student and not change the dynamic,” Griffith said.

The college’s policy on canceling trips abroad is in line with the U.S. government’s travel warnings. If the US government advises citizens not to travel somewhere, then Simpson students do not go. Sophomore Ryan Franker is currently studying in Germany. He feels as though the recent events affected the local residents more than the visiting Simpson students.

“I am worried a little bit, just because it did happen 20 minutes from where we live,” Franker said, “But it affects more of our host families than us. We were all worried, but we were all more worried for our host families’ safety since it affects them more than it affects us.”

International Education Coordinator Jay Wilkinson doesn’t feel as though the recent school shooting in Germany would negatively affect current students studying there.

“It is very unusual for something like that today,” Wilkinson said. “In Germany, it is incredibly unusual.”

Germany has very strict gun laws and policies put in place, and Germans themselves were caught off guard by the school shooting. Students currently in Germany are not at any more risk than usual, Wilkinson said.

“Acts of violence are unusual in Ireland and Germany,” he said. “It shouldn’t be blown out of proportion because these are isolated incidents.”

Wilkinson encourages students to be wise, cautious and to listen to suggestions from advisers. Wilkinson still encourages students to study abroad. He thinks it was a great idea.

“Having an experience outside the US is going to be so valuable,” Wilkinson said. “Experiencing things you may not think to do on your own will really open one’s eyes.”

After Sept. 11, the study abroad numbers began to taper off. However, according to Griffith they are back up and many students are beginning to travel again. He also encourages parents and guardians to be aware of what is going on, and stay informed.

“If you have the opportunity to travel abroad, then do it,” Franker said. “You don’t want to be thinking later in life about whether you should have gone or not. It has been a great experience, and I would never take it back.”