The approximately 280 Penn students studying abroad in Europe this semester had cause for concern this weekend.
The U.S. Department of State issued an alert Sunday for American travelers in Europe to be aware of the heightened potential for an al-Qaeda terrorist attack. The alert did not specify any particular locations but did warn Americans abroad of terrorists’ potential “to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.”
However, many students abroad said the alert will not have much of an impact on their travel plans.
Wharton junior Allison Norman, who is studying in Madrid, received the State Department warning while waiting at the airport for her flight back to Madrid from Munich.
“It’s definitely a scary thing to think about but although the threat level is higher, I feel like things are out of my hands and I shouldn’t live in fear,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Office of International Programs Director Anne Waters said all Penn students who are on an international program received a pre-departure briefing focused on safety and security abroad.
College junior Charlotte Crowley also received the news while waiting for her flight back to Spain. “It’s hard to avoid subways and tourist attractions within Spain since I use subways frequently and many tourist attractions are in central locations in the city,” she wrote in an e-mail.
She added that the alert made her nervous, particularly because it came at a time when she was travelling and because Germany is among the places specifically referenced in the media as a targeted area. Great Britain and France are also said to be targets.
“I don’t think that this will affect my travel schedule, but it will certainly be in the back of my head as I use the metro and will inevitably make me more nervous when I fly,” Crowley wrote.
Engineering junior Preeya Khanna, who is studying in London, did not hear about the warning until the late afternoon. She spent part of the day at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, a major tourist attraction.
She said she was surprised to come home to see that she did not have an e-mail from the Penn Abroad office. “It seems like there’s just a general confusion about how to transmit the right message to people traveling,” Khanna wrote in an e-mail.
Though Penn Abroad has not yet sent out an e-mail, they will send a detailed one tomorrow with a link so students can register any of their planned travel, according to Waters.
College junior Mili Mehta wrote in an e-mail that she found the news “disconcerting, particularly because I’m located literally one block away from where the London bombings happened a few years ago.” She said she intends to avoid the London Underground as much as possible.
Others are not as distressed. College junior Mike Contillo, also studying in London, wrote in an e-mail that “the travel warning seems to be far more known by those in the United States than by those here in the UK.”
“The warning caught me by surprise because I haven’t noticed any signs of danger or warnings over here,” College junior Sarah Rubin, who is studying in Leuven, Belgium, wrote in an e-mail. “I’m a little concerned because obviously this is a sign of escalating danger, but I’m not currently planning on canceling any travel plans.”
Wharton junior Trisha Mantri, also abroad in Leuven, wrote in an e-mail that “if the Department of State is going through the trouble of warning everyone of the possibility of a terrorist attack, it’s now my responsibility to keep myself safe and take heed of what seems to be a pretty severe situation.”
She added, however, that she is unlikely to cancel travel plans for which tickets are non-refundable.
City News Editor Jared McDonald contributed reporting to this article.
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