Castle students discuss travel risks

Updated 12/4/15

WELL, The Netherlands — On Tuesday, Nov. 24, students and professors at Emerson’s Kasteel Well campus in the Netherlands gathered to discuss how fear of terrorist attacks like those perpetrated on Nov. 13 in Paris affect student travel. Over 50 students and five of the 14 professors attended the conversation.

The attacks in France, which terror group ISIS claimed responsibility for, left at least 128 civilians dead. Five Emerson students were in the city at the time, though none were harmed.

This event, coupled with a recent worldwide travel alert from the U.S. Department of State that warns travelers of risk of terrorist attacks, left Kasteel Well students to consider how much caution should dictate their trip plans.

In order to address this conflict, sophomore communication studies major Ellie Penfield-Cyr said that she organized an informational panel for the Kasteel Well community.

“Since all of this turmoil and violence is happening around us, I think it’s especially important that the students here are aware of what’s going on,” Penfield-Cyr said. “We may not fully understand it, but just being aware may help us to not live in fear.”

The meeting began with a selection of videos, covering topics from the Syrian refugee crisis, to U.S. air strikes, to the Paris attacks.

These clips alone raised some controversial points among the panel. Many professors were critical of the emotional focus of the selection; they warned of the manipulative nature of propaganda in the media and encouraged students to look for the underlying intentions beneath this emotional staging.

“Right now, this is a news war,” Ralph Trost, a history professor at Kasteel Well, said in the meeting. “But this coverage raises the question: How much am I willing to give up my freedom to be safe?”

Some students have chosen to follow through with their travel plans to Paris after the attacks despite the recent events, including senior communication sciences and disorders major Nallely Beltran.

“When I called my dad before making my decision to go to Paris, he told me, ‘Daughter, things will always happen. Go now. Be careful. I love you,’” Beltran said. “So I went. I learned so much, and I’d do it again.”

According to Dulcia Meijers, executive director of the Kasteel Well program, student interest in the program tends to decrease in times of terror. During the Persion Gulf War in 1990, she said six students studied at the Well campus. According to Meijers, four students who accepted Kasteel Well spot for spring 2016 have already dropped out of the program. 

“It is a realistic concern, since a lot of the attacks are ongoing on the European soil that our students are venturing on,” Meijers said. “I understand why parents and students are fearful and back out.”

Meijers said that while the program administration is doing their best to keep the campus as safe as possible, the main concern is keeping students aware.

“Students are not always here [on campus], which means they have to be vigilant and educated of the political situation,” Meijers said.

Lindsey Simpson, a junior marketing communication major who attended the meeting, said she believes being a U.S. citizen in Europe during these events allowed her to gain a different perspective on these events.

“Having the chance to talk to all of these professors and being able to discuss their different backgrounds of knowledge gave us a more worldly perspective on these events than perhaps we would have gotten in America,” Simpson said.



Updated 12/4/15 to include data on the number of students who attended Kasteel Well during times of terror, provided by Meijers.