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Some students and an even greater number of parents are hesitant about study abroad options following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. But Penn's Office of International Programs is not.

On Thursday night, in honor of the second-annual International Education Week, a panel of eight students -- both foreign students and Americans who have been abroad -- gathered in the Raisler Lounge of the Towne Building to discuss travel in light of recent international events.

During the intimate gathering, some undergraduates expressed concerns about going overseas to study.

"The events of Sept. 11 definitely make me nervous," said Engineering junior Rachael Palmer, who plans on taking classes at Kings College in London this spring. "If anything major happens I may have to postpone my experiences abroad."

Despite concerns, Executive Director of Overseas Programs Patricia Martin said interest remains high.

"There hasn't been a drop at all in students wanting to go abroad," she said. "We are expecting a lot of conversations over Thanksgiving dinner which is why I encouraged students to come to this session. Students need to learn to articulate the value of studying abroad to their parents."

Panelists strongly encouraged experiencing other cultures, calling culture shock one of the most valuable aspects of going abroad.

"I wanted to be somewhere where Coca-Cola and McDonald's weren't predominant things," College senior Glenn Osten Anderson said. "When I was in Cuba, there was a food shortage due to an embargo, so I lived on rice, beans and lard. I understood what it is like to not have food readily available."

All panelists agreed that the recent events should not deter students from leaving the country, noting that education can serve as a small, albeit important, step toward improving international relations.

"Studying abroad can be a statement that we are not afraid," first-year Political Science doctoral student Joe Glicksberg said. "It can be a powerful weapon."

According to the panelists, new perspectives are a powerful weapon in times of crisis.

"I was taught history from a British context," said Andrew Heath, a first-year American History doctoral student who studied in England. "Coming to America opened new avenues of learning. Going abroad challenges you to think differently and that in itself is valuable."

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