Planes, trains and automobiles

Paris, Westminster, Brussels, Stockholm, Nice, Berlin – all cities that have suffered in the past few years at the hands of terrorists.  

Many major European cities have seen horrific incidents – knife attacks, bombings, vehicles being driven into crowds. This would put anyone with a good head on their shoulders on edge. This would definitely make you think twice about your planned trip to Europe.

Lately, as terror attacks are becoming more and more frequent, and closer to home, European travel is becoming less and less comfortable.

This has implications for students planning European travel. Many students will be planning to study or work abroad for the summer, or take a holiday in Europe. As it has been unavoidable news in recent years and months, most will have the threat of terrorism at least in the back of their minds.

Some countries and cities are more likely to fall victim of terror attacks than others. This doesn’t mean avoid these places like the plague. It means if you choose destinations such as these for your trip, you will need to be – and if you have done your research – will most likely be, on full alert.

The countries with the highest threat of terrorism in Europe are Belgium, France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and the UK according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These cover a lot of common travel destinations for students.

However, while the frequency of terror attacks is rising, the odds of being caught in terror attacks are still very low. That said, it is wise to avoid the mindset of “that would never happen to me”.

Chris Coseglia, an American student, studied in Turkey in the Spring of 2016. In his time there, there were a number of reports of bombings in cities nearby.

“I understood the risk. I understood what could happen in Turkey, but my heart said ‘hey, this is a great trip,’” Coseglia said. “I encourage anyone to take an opportunity to go overseas and to be in an environment they know nothing about, but just be smart. Be smart, have a good time, don’t let the terror scare you off.”

In regard to European countries, the EU Commissioner for Security Union said terrorists want to target “our way of life”. Therefore, Ireland is not exempt from attacks such as the ones we have been seeing recently.  

So, while there may be higher probabilities of attacks in other countries, we are not in a safe bubble where we are. “I don’t think anyone should relax and think they are going to be immune from that,” said Commissioner Julian King.

Many students are not cancelling or postponing European trips in light of the frequency of terror attacks. It is unknown  when people will feel completely comfortable to travel Europe free of the thought of terrorism. Student trips are short, for the most part. Many dislike the thought of turning down what could be a once in a lifetime trip out of fear of something that is unlikely to happen.

While the odds are you won’t encounter any acts of terrorism, the odds are slightly higher than they were a few years ago. But this may not be enough to put everyone planning European travel at ease. If you want to feel comfortably safe and out of the firing line, consider more remote locations.

The attacks of the last few years have been in densely populated areas. To put your mind to rest, to feel comfortable letting down your guard, avoid popular or big European cities. Instead of visiting the Louvre in Paris, for example, consider going camping or hiking. 

There are many travel alternatives to busy, touristic cities.

While options like these may put the student traveler at ease, it is not to say that you shouldn’t go to the Louvre – just that if it’s a thought that plagues you and will ultimately ruin your trip, opt for what will make your European travel most enjoyable.

It has been argued that living in fear of terrorists is letting them win. However, this can also be disputed because it’s rational to fear people who might drop a bomb on your holiday resort or city tour bus.

Before travelling, it is best to take time and research the history and the likelihood of terrorist attacks in the country you’re visiting. Then, you can decide to set your level of awareness to an appropriate point based on the area you’re visiting.

This will give you a calmer and more realistic mindset – instead of one of unhelpful and unreasonable levels of worry.

Comforting or not, the bluntest but the most realistic advice that can be offered to those in this situation is – do your research, book your flights, and hope for the best.

Emily Sheahan