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Travel alert affects students abroad

Casey Kenny | Friday, October 8, 2010

With the State Department’s recent release of a general travel alert for all Americans in Europe, Notre Dame’s Office of International Studies (OIS) took extra precautions to enhance awareness of the alert and to ensure the safety of its students studying or traveling abroad.

The travel alert, released on Sunday, alerted U.S. citizens to the increased potential for terrorist attacks in Europe and recommended U.S. citizens take safety precautions when traveling abroad, particularly in public places like tourist sites and airports or while riding public transportation.

The alert, a step below a formal “travel warning” which advises U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to particular places, was issued after an assessment of information that terrorist groups appeared to be plotting attacks on cities in Europe.

There are presently 235 Notre Dame students studying in Europe, according to Kathleen Opel, director of OIS.

OIS is in close contact with its students who are studying abroad and the program directors urged students to listen to the warnings of the State Department and adopt appropriate safety measures.

“The Office of International Studies has notified students in Europe of the State Department’s advisory,” Opel said. “We have advised them to follow the tips from the State Department and have provided them with various strategies to do so.”

Opel said she would tell Notre Dame students in Europe to increase their awareness when in specific locations or settings.

“Students need to be vigilant and always be aware of their surroundings,” she said. “They are aware that they should not be attending political rallies or wearing clothing that draws attention to them as Americans.”

Students in the Notre Dame London Program were made well aware of the advisory.

“The London program has reviewed the travel alert with students both by email and verbally,” London program director Greg Kucich said. “We are emphasizing the alert’s precautions regarding vigilance, especially at transportation centers and large public gatherings.”

Kuchich said the London Program urged students to follow the security procedures already established by the program, which include always filling out electronic itinerary travel forms and carrying the operational cell phones provided by the London program, as well as the emergency phone numbers.

Both Kucich and Opel emphasized that students should use common sense and listen to and heed their instincts.

“Students seem to be taking this in stride,” Opel said. “Most remember 9/11 and have grown up and live in an environment where travel vigilance is required.”

Kuchich said Notre Dame students should even increase their awareness in their daily activities.

“Students are paying due attention to the travel alert and recommended precautions while proceeding in a cautious, calm way with their academic studies, their daily routines in London, and their travel plans,” Kucich said. “Students are responding intelligently and maturely to the travel alert and are following all recommended precautions without disrupting their travel plans.”

Junior Alex Study, who is abroad in London, is aware of the advisory and necessary precautions.

“The recent travel advisory has not significantly affected my fall break thus far,” Study said. “I have made travel plans and I intend to keep those plans.”

Study said most students are cautious but not allowing the advisory to negatively affect their academic and traveling experiences while abroad.

“Most people don’t seem to be taking any real precautions, but some people are a little concerned and will be trying to avoid public transportation for a while,” he said. “As for myself, I won’t be taking any specific precautions, but will just exercise common sense and be aware of my surroundings.”

The Office of International Studies will continue to work closely with students and program directors in monitoring and communicating the heightened threat.

“We are looking out for what is best for the students,” Opel said. “We want to make sure the locations are safe and we will continue to monitor information as it develops and reassess from there.”