The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for Americans traveling to Europe during the summer months, and with the recent attack in Nice, France’s safety is a concern for many.
On July 15, French citizen Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, drove his truck into a crowd gathering to celebrate Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people according to the Associated Press.
According to the State Department’s website, the purpose of this American travel alert is to make travelers aware of “short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country.” This specific travel alert, set to expire on August 31, identified the European Soccer Championship, the Tour de France and the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day as potential targets for terrorist attacks.
The Catholic Church’s World Youth Day, which will take place during the last week of July in Krakow, Poland, is expected to draw a crowd of 2.5 million people. France has extended its state of emergency that’s been in place since the Paris attacks in November due to the Bastille Day terror attack.
Travel warnings and alerts from the State Department are not uncommon and BYU closely monitors any new information or data about global security to keep students safe abroad.
“We keep very close touch with the U.S. government and other security entities,” said Lynn Elliott, BYU’s Director of International Study Programs. “BYU hires a full-time international security analyst to keep track of all of this information and we funnel whatever information we gather to the directors.”
During the 2013-2014 school year, the Institute of International Education ranked BYU 28th among universities in the nation for the number of students who participated in study abroad programs. According to Elliot, there are several hundred BYU students who are enrolled in for-credit programs overseas.
BYU has an official travel policy for students who are planning to travel internationally through the university. Included in that policy is a list of countries students in BYU’s international study programs are not permitted to visit without special permission. The list is updated frequently by the school’s international security advisor, Landes Holbrook, based on current events. Holbrook could not be reached for comment.
“We watch very carefully where every one of our programs go,” Elliott said. “We tend to be very conservative on where we send students.”
Elliott said that BYU’s current programs in Europe will continue as planned because none of them have any affiliation with the high-risk events that the State Department identified.
Marie Patrick, a pre-acting major from Tampa, Florida, returned to France this summer after completing her service as a missionary there over one year ago. Patrick said she was not made aware of the State Department’s travel alert as she made plans to travel to France. Compared to her time as a missionary, Patrick said security in France did not feel any tighter.
Jared Miller, a BYU alum from Great Falls, Montana, has also been traveling in France this summer to visit his in-laws. Miller, who has traveled to Europe several times before, said he noticed the security in Paris had tightened since his last visit.
“There are now more security agents everywhere, especially at the entrances of major tourist and ground attractions, who look through your bags.” Miller said
Miller continued by saying that he was vaguely aware of the travel alert and conscious of the risks.
“I recognize the increased risk but don’t feel that should deter my plans,” Miller said. “It just means that there is a greater need to be aware of what is going on around you, to be careful and to cooperate with security.”
Both Miller and Patrick said that they have no plans to attend any of the high-risk events specified in the State Department’s travel alert.