As the United States begins mobilizing troops for a possible war in Iraq, anti-war sentiment abroad remains high. But Yale students studying in foreign countries said they are proceeding with their semesters as planned.
The growing animosity towards U.S. policies on Iraq has prompted study abroad programs to send e-mails to students and parents informing them of emergency plans. Study abroad organizers are also advising students — as they have in the past — to integrate themselves into life abroad as much as possible. Yet there is no sign that programs will be disrupted in any way, International Education and Fellowship Programs Associate Director Karyn Jones said.
Jones said she has not heard from any worried parents and has only heard from one concerned student abroad. The person received an e-mail that was circulating in Spain, which said students in certain programs would be forced to go home if war broke out in Iraq. Jones checked with the organizations cited in the e-mail and confirmed that the e-mail was incorrect.
“In the history of these programs, they have not had to [send students home],” Jones said. “They’re doing the usual things, like making sure the students know that they shouldn’t run around with their school sweatshirts on.”
E-mails to students have included tips on blending in, such as avoiding tourist areas and speaking the country’s native language. Jones said she has e-mailed students abroad reassuring them that IEFP is looking out for their safety and asking them to tell her about any concerns.
Students in France — which has publicly criticized the U.S. position on Iraq — said they are definitely aware of foreign opposition to America’s policies and President George W. Bush. But they said they do not feel threatened.
Robert Hollowell ’04 said in an e-mail that he had not met anyone in France who supported the war, which is a perennial topic of conversation.
“I don’t feel, however, like they expect me personally to be for the war and don’t expect me to explain why the U.S. continues to move toward war,” he said. “In general, people hate George Bush and others in the government, but don’t apply those feelings to the general public. I am not worried, for example, walking down the street or out at night that some Frenchman is going to attack me because he thinks I am some war-hungry American.”
Catherine Halaby ’04, who is studying in Fes, Morocco, said in an e-mail that she felt much stronger anti-war sentiment on a recent weekend trip to Spain than in Morocco.
“No one said anything or was weird to me because I was an American, but there was [anti-war] graffiti everywhere and posters,” she said.
Students in Prague and London said the U.S. Embassy had contacted them with general tips for staying safe and with assurance that they would be notified in the event of any security risk.
Chip Lockwood ’03 said in an e-mail that while everyone in his Prague program has been following the news about Iraq closely, he is not overly worried.
“I’m not particularly concerned about the chance that war with Iraq will endanger me or Americans in Prague, or the possibility that it will interrupt my studies here,” he said.
Andrew Towne ’04, who is studying in Nairobi, Kenya, said in an e-mail that anti-war sentiment is strong, particularly within the Muslim community, but that he is not concerned about it jeopardizing his safety.
“I already avoid crowds (like music festivals), not because I’m afraid they’d be targeted for terrorism, but because it’s annoying to keep your hands in your pocket the whole time to make sure you don’t get robbed,” he said. “Worrying about Muslim radicals versus getting a bottle to the face during the riot? I’ll take my chances with the impending war.”