I feel like I did not truly understand London until March 22nd, 2017.
That is, of course, the day of the attack outside of the Houses of Parliament. Before that day, I saw London as a beautiful, multifaceted, and fascinating city. After, I also saw a city with a backbone of steel, a heart of gold, and diamond-coated determination. I understand just how London weathered World War II, the Troubles, and the 2005 attacks. I have a newfound appreciation for the city I’ve called home for the last few months… and everyone in it.
But while I spent the 22nd calmly going about my daily life here in London, my family and friends back at home were fretting. If your parents are anything like mine, they are regretting letting you go to London just a bit. They’re wondering why they let you leave your hometown, travel across the world, and face unknown dangers. If you’re planning on studying abroad next semester, you’re probably beginning to hear some grumbling over the safety of London (or Paris, Brussels, Nice, or Berlin). They might even be questioning your decision to go abroad at all. My family can’t exactly keep me from going to London at this point, so I’ve been getting lots of “I’ll only be happy when I have you back home” and “I really can’t wait for you to come back now”.
Honestly, hearing these things has been upsetting. I only have a few days left in the city, and I’m not ready to leave. And as anxious as my family is to have me back home, I would return to this city in a heartbeat. I love it here. I feel safe here. I feel at home here.
“I don’t want this day to define my study abroad experience for my parents,” a friend lamented to me following the attack. I know exactly what she means. When you study abroad, you explore a place far beyond the tourist destinations. You experience a place more deeply than any newspaper headline, travel blog, or breaking news alert. And it’s frustrating when all of these experiences— the good and the bad and everything in between— are suddenly condensed into a single moment of violence. I don’t want my family to think of terror when they think of my time abroad.
Of course, the fear that family and friends feel in the face of terror is completely understandable, and sadly not unfounded. So here’s what I have to say to my family and to all of the nervous parents and guardians (and relatives, friends, and potential study abroad students) out there:
I cannot promise you that there will not be violence, terror-related or otherwise, during your child’s time abroad. No place in the world is completely safe. That includes London. That includes your child’s university campus in the United States. And that also includes the streets of your child’s hometown. And while no one can promise that your child will be safe anywhere in the world, there are staff at IES Abroad dedicated to keeping your child as safe as possible. In fact, it’s their job.
I am impressed by the way IES Abroad, London’s emergency services, and London as a whole carried itself during and after the attack. IES Abroad’s London Center did everything that they said that they would do at orientation. They watched for the news alerts, warned students to avoid the area, and ascertained the location of every study abroad student under their watch. I’m certain that there was a lot they were doing behind the scenes as well (like answering worried parent phone calls and communicating with universities). And it’s worth noting that London’s police force and emergency services did everything right as well. By all accounts, they handled the situation in Westminster flawlessly. The scene was secured quickly and emergency services were prompt, thorough, and courteous. And the people of London? Wow, did they impress me. The people of London stayed calm. They were unafraid. They did not panic. They helped each other. In fact, they’re still helping each other.
London is so much more than any attack. My experiences in London are so much more than any attack. And I can promise you that.
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<p>Hi, I’m Angela! I’m a junior at American University, where I’m majoring in International Studies and minoring in Public Health. I enjoy drinking hot chocolate, reading good books, and singing along to *every* song on the Hamilton soundtrack. I grew up in the Rust Belt, live in DC, and can’t wait to study healthcare and experience life in London. I’m not throwing away my shot!</p>