Despite a pending war in Iraq, several GW students planning to head overseas for spring break are carrying through with their travel arrangements. Most students said they plan to visit friends studying abroad in Europe, and that a conflict in Iraq is far enough removed from the region to meet their safety comfort zone.
The Bush administration announced this week that the United States would disarm Baghdad by the end of March, and the State Department has warned Americans of a “heightened risk of terrorist attacks, including by groups with links to Al Qaeda,” since February.
Most students said although they are not overly nervous, they will heed the State Department’s warnings and check out its Web site before they depart.
Freshman Carlo Fassinotti is traveling to Germany for the week to visit his parents who live there. Fassinotti, who has lived abroad during most of his life and speaks French and Italian, said he doesn’t anticipate “being molested” while in Germany but plans to keep his American identity “toned down.”
“I can blend in,” Fassinotti said. “I’d be more nervous if I were there and war suddenly broke out.” He noted that he would be more worried going to France than Germany because of heightened anti-American sentiment there.
Sophomore Sarah Stein-Lobovits, who is spending spring break in London with three friends, said she hasn’t changed anything about her trip but will take basic precautions while in England.
“We are not going to parade around and flaunt our nationality,” she said.
Stein-Lobovits said she is skeptical about a major terrorist-related threat in London because the fear comes from an “… exaggerated perception from the media” rather than from substantial risks.
However, some students have canceled vacations because of the threat of war.
“I’m driving down to Florida because my roommate doesn’t fly anywhere (since September 11),” senior Beth Alexander said.
Some students who are abroad for the semester said they still plan to travel through Europe.
Junior Jeremy Monosov, who is studying in Sevilla, Spain wrote in an e-mail that he has been traveling around Spain and Portugal because he doesn’t want his “study abroad experience to be constricted.” He said there is not “a substantial or apparent enough threat to air travel within Europe to drastically alter travel plans.”
Monosov said his parents are supportive, and plan to visit him in Spain later this semester.
However, he said he would cancel his plans if there was an immediate threat.
Monosov said the media has also perpetuated some fears in American and European students.
“(I have) the impression that there is a sense of imminent fear gripping the U.S. and especially D.C.,” he wrote. “Upon talking with people back at school I realize that the reality is not exactly how it seems here.”
Current warnings and tips for American students studying abroad can be found at the State Department’s Web site, www.travel.state.gov.
-Julie Gordon contributed to this report.