For the past week, Georgetown students currently abroad have been faced with being far from home in a time of crisis, while university offices are trying to maintain their normal programs abroad in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks.

Two-thirds of the students planning to go abroad are already out of the country, according to Michael Vande Berg, director of International Programs. The other third are involved with programs scheduled to begin at the end of this month or in early October.

Vande Berg said the Office of International Programs has received “surprisingly few” calls from concerned parents, and that there have been “very, very few withdrawals” from any of Georgetown’s programs abroad.

“Most students are committed to staying where they are abroad .. We’re not anticipating that there is going to be any significant number of students that will elect not to go,” he said.

OIP decided last spring not to run a program abroad in Israel this academic year, but no other programs were cancelled then or are going to be canceled.

“We are absolutely not going to do anything to place Georgetown students at risk,” Vande Berg said. If the risk increases, he said, “Then we may change our stance.”

“Currently, there is no evidence that people would be in more danger abroad . These events fortunately don’t happen every year, but when they do, people’s response to them are conditioned by a lot of stereotyping. Part of our job as educators is to help people work through these fears and prejudices, and we do that by giving parents and students accurate information,” Vande Berg said.

Three students decided not to spend the term at Georgetown’s villa outside of Florence, Italy, Director of the Villa Program Michelle Siemietkowski said. Because most students had flights to Italy scheduled the day after the attacks, orientation and classes at the Villa were pushed back. Ten students are already at the Villa, Siemietkowski said, and the 11 others will arrive sometime this week.

“The Villa is very secure,” Siemietkowski said. “There is a gate that can’t be entered except with a key.”

According to Siemietkowski, no students planning to go to the Villa in the spring have contacted her about withdrawing from the program.

Cheryl Metzger (COL ’03) said being in Tours, France since the day of the attacks has been “horrible.” She said that she and other students, “want to help out at Georgetown and be with our community, family and friends; to participate in the grief, mourning and shared strength of spirit, but instead we must feign normalcy and go about our daily lives pretending that learning French is still our number one priority.”

Metzger felt somewhat disappointed by the reaction she has observed in Europe.

“It is also frustrating because it angers me to hear words abroad suggesting that America has been `humiliated’ or brought to its knees and is now in dire need of European help. While Europe has been wonderful in showing its support for America, I cringe when I think that some people secretly revel in the opportunity to `help’ us – the goliath that has finally been put in its place.”

Senta Wooten (COL ’03) was traveling in Europe over the summer and will soon begin a year abroad in Berlin. The German media, she said, “has made a real effort to portray Muslims accurately, as peace-loving folk . One of the chief concerns here is that the Americans will kill innocent, already impoverished civilians of Afghanistan. The media in Germany pays more attention to the Third World, so the general population is more informed of the suffering that has been present since the Taliban came to power (with U.S. aid) in Afghanistan.”

Although Wooten noted that everyone she met was “very friendly, concerned and upset at the events,” Monday, “for the first time I noticed some skepticism at the Americans, especially Bush’s ability to handle the situation.”

Sarah Goldstein (COL ’03), also in Tours, said, “What I felt most immediately was both the outpouring of support from my French host family and friends, and simultaneously a feeling of isolation in terms of being so far away from the U.S. during a moment of such vulnerability and horror. Many of my friends abroad also expressed a desire to be at Georgetown, both to be with good friends and also to volunteer help in any way possible.”

Metzger also expressed a feeling of isolation. “You feel guilty having fun, you feel depressed watching the news and being away from those you love, and you feel uncertain about what the next step will be since all our news is in French and is secondhand from America.”

“But all in all,” she added, “there is an abiding hope and unwavering confidence that in the end America will triumph, however and whenever that might be.”

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