GW students studying abroad in Paris this semester were given the option to complete their classes in the United States in the wake of deadly terror attacks in the city.
At least nine GW students who studied abroad in Paris flew back to the United States to finish the semester early, the director of GW Paris confirmed. The city is under a state of emergency until January, and the U.S. Department of State has issued warnings about travel worldwide.
GW declined to say whether the Office of Study Abroad would review its safety and security procedures.
Resident Director of GW Paris Florence Claassen de Mourgues said GW worked to accommodate students who decided to return to the United States early, and said most parents wanted students to come home as soon as possible, a request she called “totally understandable.”
“Both GW and our partner University Sciences Po decided not to prevent students who wanted to go back home to do so, and to accommodate classes and exams accordingly, and to let them receive their credits,” she said in an email.
Each of the 52 GW students studying abroad in Paris were safe and accounted for less than 24 hours after the the deadliest attacks in Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings. A total of 130 people were killed and several hundred more were injured in six violent attacks in Paris on Nov. 13.
Claassen de Mourgues said the University “acted in a very cautious way” after the attacks. She said she received a phone call from the Office of Study Abroad immediately after the attacks and students were required to contact GW individually to be considered accounted for.
“This procedure was not so quick, as a few students did not contact GW right away to say they were safe,” Claassen de Mourgues said.
GW offers three study abroad options in France, through its GW Study program, during which students are supported by GW staff on campus and in Paris. GW also allows students to study abroad through provider programs in France, like CIEE Study Abroad and IES Abroad, which did not return requests for comment. In March, a small group of students will travel to Paris as part of a Globalization and the Media class in the School of Media and Public Affairs.
Samantha Bosin, a junior and a business major, studied at The Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris until the Monday following the attacks, before returning home to Basking Ridge, New Jersey. She said she is completing final projects and papers on Blackboard, which she said are due this week.
“The Office of Study Abroad has been extremely helpful. They have allowed us to extend our project deadlines, and have been in constant contact with us regarding any questions or concerns we may have had in the past two weeks,” she said.
Many students studying in Paris were on fall breaks during the attacks, she said. Bosin had just arrived in Amsterdam for the weekend when she heard about the attacks, an experience she said was “surreal.”
“I had just checked into our hotel and had received a CNN alert on my phone that had read ‘Update: Shooting in Paris neighborhood.’ Over the next 45 minutes the attacks unraveled and we were extremely shocked,” she said. “I didn’t know if I would be able to travel back to Paris.”
Bosin said on Sunday night after the attacks, GW emailed students to tell them they had the option to return to the United States. She said she chose to return home after she walked the streets of Paris when she returned from Amsterdam.
“I felt uneasy and almost trapped. I tried to have an optimistic approach to the situation. I also told myself that life had to go on and I’m sure most New Yorkers did not stop their lives after 9/11. Although, there is a large difference of being in your own country and being struck by terror and being a foreign citizen in a country that is struck by terror,” she said. “I wanted to be home and with my family.”
University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt declined to comment on the kinds of conversations the Office of Study Abroad has had with regard to its safety and security while students are abroad, and he declined to provide details about potential changes to the way GW addresses those concerns when students travel.
“The study abroad programs in Paris continue to operate, and we continue to receive applications from students for various study abroad destinations for the spring 2016 semester,” he said.
Hiatt also declined to say how many students applied to study abroad in Paris before Nov. 13 and if any students rescinded their application.
“As we have this semester, we will communicate various safety and security resources for students and advise them to follow the direction of program coordinators on the ground, who closely monitor information from local law enforcement and the State Department,” he said.