Students studying abroad in Paris react to terrorist attacks

“You [could] feel the sadness in the atmosphere and you [could] feel how the city was so silent when it used to be so lively.”

By Feng Ye

All 58 UChicago students studying abroad in Paris, as well as affiliated faculty, are confirmed safe after last Friday’s terrorist attacks. Academic programs have been minimally affected.

There are four study abroad programs for undergraduate students at the UChicago Center in Paris this quarter, including European Civilizations, African Civilizations, Human Evolution, and Classics of Social and Political Thought. Last Friday, students had just finished the second of three courses of the quarter, and were about to begin a one-week break. Some had already left Paris to travel, while others were going to depart on Saturday.

The University’s Center in Paris contacted study abroad students immediately after news of the Paris attacks broke on Friday evening. The safety of all students had been confirmed by Saturday, according to Sarah Walter, director of study abroad and associate dean for international education in the College.

At 1:45 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Walter sent an e-mail to students and parents, asking students to keep updating the program administrators with their travel plans, and to be responsive to messages from the study abroad program and other University staff.

“We are…closely in touch with our colleagues at the Cité Universitaire Residence campus, who have implemented increased security measures in the houses. While we do not presently anticipate the need to make adjustments to the academic schedule in Paris (which has classes resuming on Monday, November 23), we will continue to monitor events and are prepared to make changes if needed,” Walter said in the e-mail.

“Any student who wishes to return home is of course entitled to do so, and we will be glad to offer support with logistics,” Walter continued.

After his finals at the Paris center and a visit to Musée Guimet, third-year Hansong Li, a student of the European Civilization sequence, originally planned to go to Canal Saint-Martin, near which some of the attacks took place. But he instead chose to come back to rest in his dorm in Cité Universitaire de Paris, located in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

“Immediately after I came back to my dorm, I saw the news that the attacks happened near the canal,” Li said.

Li planned to travel to Italy during his break. He said when he took the Metro to the airport the train was almost empty.

“You [could] feel the sadness in the atmosphere and you [could] feel how the city was so silent when it used to be so lively,” Li said.

Third-year Elisabeth Huh, in the same program, had been getting ready to leave for her one-week break in Morocco when the attacks occurred.

“I felt a horrible sense of guilt at the idea of leaving Paris. I felt that the city had truly become like a second home over the five months I had stayed here…The idea of leaving on a vacation the day after the event felt disrespectful. It felt like an act of abandonment,” Huh said.

Students had previously visited many of the places where the attacks happened. Canal Saint-Martin, for example, was where they just had a class session during the week of the attack, according to Li. “Le Petit Cambodge, one of the restaurants that was targeted, was one I had visited with a few friends in Chicago back in August,” Huh said.

The academic program will resume next week as scheduled, and students are expected to travel back to Paris.

“I have no expectations for any particular policy in response to the Paris attacks, but I do hope that the vibrant cultural environment will resume, and Paris will recover from its wound as soon as possible,” Li said.