Early Tuesday morning in Brussels, Belgium, at least 34 people were killed and 150 injured during bombings in the airport and metro, carried out by ISIS suicide bombers. Since then, major U.S. cities like New York, D.C., and Chicago have ramped up their security, particularly at central transportation hubs. Although there are no specific threats against the U.S., Americans are more frightened than ever before.
UVa students are also alarmed at the news, wondering what this means regarding protection for students on Grounds and security for many traveling abroad this summer to Europe. In addition, many students have close friends and family abroad right now.
Third year student Stephen Weber remarked, “It deeply saddens me to hear about the tragedy in Brussels. I personally have several family members living in Europe, and it worries me knowing that these kind of events are happening so close to them.”
UVa will be taking a group of Speech Pathology and Audiology student majors to Ghent, Belgium in May for a 6-week study abroad program. Many of them will visit Brussels and travel through transportation centers in Brussels to get to other places in Europe on the weekends. Professor Filip Loncke, an associate professor in the Communication Disorders program of the Curry School of Education, helps coordinate and run this program.
When asked how he will respond, Loncke responded: “The safety and the security of the students is of course the highest priority. Nobody knows at this point what the best course of action is, but I am in contact with the deans and the Study Abroad Office. Our Belgian abroad instructor Dr. Paul Corthals just arrived here from Belgium to prepare. I hope things will get more clear in the coming hours and days.”
Allison Doss, a student attending the trip in May, said that she had many emotions when she first heard about the attacks in Brussels, ranging from shocked, to heartbroken, to scared. She noted that the hardest part about tragedies like this are that they are unpredictable, and we cannot assume these types of things will never happen to us.
“As for UVa”, Doss said, “I think that they do the best they can providing services and resources to students before, during, and after their trips abroad. I’m not sure that there is anything more that they can do to ensure we are safe.”
Another student embarking on the Belgium trip for May, third year Savannah Sunvold, also lived in Belgium when she was younger. “I am so thankful for my opportunity to have lived over there and will always be grateful for the impact that the country and the Belgian people had on my life”, said Sunvold. “My thoughts and prayers are with this country that was so welcoming to me and my family.”
According to The Cavalier Daily, The University Study Abroad program has been in contact with the three UVa students abroad in Belgium currently and confirmed their safety.
Our thoughts are with the city of Brussels, the UVa community, and the rest of the world, as we prepare security efforts to better protect our safety against the threat of terrorism.
By Emily Irwin, Editor in Chief