Students rethink spring break plans

As drug-related violence near the Mexican border escalates, some students are rethinking their spring break plans.

Though the State Department issued a travel alert on Feb. 20 warning about violence throughout the country, many GW students are planning on visiting popular resort areas like Cancun, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas. Nearly 100,000 students across the country are gearing up to head south of the border for spring break, the State Department estimated.

Sophomore Susannah Levin said she was nervous about her trip to Acapulco when she saw the travel alert. In response, she and her friends have taken extra precautions, like hiring a private car for travel outside of the resort. Now, Levin said, she is not as worried.

“I did a lot of research and the violence is mostly on the borders. I think you just have to be smart. You’re in a foreign country, so you can’t act inappropriately,” Levin said. “If it ever came to where I was scared enough, I wouldn’t go.

Though Acapulco is not explicitly mentioned on the travel alert, according to the State Department, drug-related violence has been increasing in the area. The department recommends U.S. citizens be “vigilant in their personal safety.”

Drug-related crime has spiked throughout Mexico, especially in border cities, with home invasions and kidnappings spilling into Arizona. The State Department warned that in recent years dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Mexico. Just last week, Mexican cartels forced the resignation of a police chief in Ciudad Juarez by killing police officers every 48 hours until the man left his post.

Though several universities have advised their students about the situation, GW has not taken a stance. Dean of Students Linda Donnels said that the University does not typically issue travel advisories.

“There are alerts and travel warnings about a number of countries around the world and we know that our students travel broadly,” Donnels said. “So what we would say if students inquire would be to check out the State Department sites for countries that they’re going to. We always want students to pay attention to information and to use common sense when traveling in another country.”

Some groups have adjusted their travel plans in response to the violence. The GW International Alternative Spring Break will still volunteer in Oaxaca in southern Mexico, but they have changed their initial itinerary that involved flying to Mexico City and taking a bus to Oaxaca. Instead, they will fly directly to Oaxaca.

Many students are reluctant to change their plans on such short notice. Patrick Evans, a spokesperson for STS travel, said though the student travel service has received many inquiries about safety in Mexico, cancellations have not been outside of normal activity since the travel alert was released.

But some students are waiting it out. Samantha Schneider, a sophomore who planned on going to Acapulco, said that most of her friends who planned to vacation in Mexico are still undecided and considering alternative locations.

“Due to the violence, I’m reconsidering my plans for spring break in Acapulco,” Schneider said. “Essentially it’s up to my parents. The group we booked it through is heading down to Acapulco this week and will be giving us updates on the situation. If they sense it’s safe, I’ll most likely go.”

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