Early morning in Stratford-upon-Avon
5:30 a.m. Why am I awake? My stomach grumbles as I groggily make my way to the bathroom. The reflection in the mirror is as much asleep as I am, with half closed eyes and messy hair. I stumble out of the bathroom and back towards my hotel bed, ready to cram in two more hours of sleep before getting up for our class walking tour of Stratford-upon-Avon in the morning. Before I fully doze off, I decide to check my phone. Pressing the power button, I expect to see a possible notification from my friend returning a text from a time zone six hours behind me. Lighting up, the lock screen is plastered with several boxes indicating messages from various family members.
"Are you safe? I just heard what happened."
"Hope you are ok."
I straightened up in my bed and rubbed my eyes open. Something was wrong. Having been asleep for the past five hours, I was confused as to what my parents and sister were asking about. Then I opened the next message from one of my close friends and it became clear.
"Hey I just heard about the attack in London, I'm guessing you weren't at the bridge but are you ok?"
My heart sank. In a country rocked by a terrorist attack just a week before in Manchester, another incident had occurred. Luckily, our class had left London for Stratford-upon-Avon just the day before. As I read into what had happened, I was shocked even further. The attack had occurred at the London Bridge and the nearby Borough Market, where I and a fellow student had just been not two days before. It all seemed so surreal. I couldn't stop my mind from thinking, "that could've been me."
Borough Market, a place for various food vendors
When planning my trip, situations such as this hadn't even crossed my mind as a possibility. London is a safe enough city, with a culture somewhat similar to the U.S. And of course, the excitement of exploring a new place was all I could focus on. It seemed perhaps even safer than the U.S., due to the fact that crime is still very low even though the majority of the police forces in the U.K. don't carry guns with them on regular duty.
The unfortunate truth is that in a world where tension and division is high, the chance of incidents happening are equally likely anywhere. Terrorism operates chiefly on chance and irregularity. But that doesn't mean that we have to constantly be paranoid of everyone and everything around us. Actions of one shouldn't have the power to isolate an entire country.
When abroad, your time in a new country should be organic and personalized, not warped by the consequences of violent and irregular events. It may give you some heightened anxiety, but you can't let it ruin your trip. No one can expand their perspective of the world if they are afraid to explore. Going abroad is about accepting and interacting with a different culture. And that should be the main goal of your experience no matter the circumstances.
All that being said, safety is always of the highest importance. Make sure to be cognizant of your surroundings whenever and wherever abroad. Be aware of any suspicious items or activity, and keep in smaller groups as much as possible. On the whole, be an conscious global citizen who is open to new experiences.
Dedication: Sending thoughts and prayers to all the victims and those effected by the Manchester and London terror attacks.
*Lauren Arzbaecher is an English and creative writing major at the University of Iowa. She will be spending her summer in London on the CIEE London Performance Study Program.
Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.