Paris. Beirut. Brussels. All of these cities have been the places of terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS in the past year. All of these cities are also cities in Europe that college students who study abroad commonly visit. It is not unreasonable to believe that ISIS will continue these attacks in the coming months. In a time where ISIS is attempting to mark prominent European cities and instill fear in the hearts of millions, it is important to be vigilant (and smart) if you decide to study abroad in Europe.
If you decide to go abroad, it is important to understand the presence of ISIS in Europe currently. When the attacks struck in Belgium many looked for clues as to why this attack happened. Belgium has been a hotbed of radicalized Islam in recent months. Of the fighters in Syria, Belgium has produced the highest per capita number of foreign fighters. Likewise in Paris, many theorized that there were growing tensions among the Muslim population in France as they failed to integrate their immigrant residents.
When you decide to go abroad do your research! Understand the presence, if any, of radicalized groups in the city that you study in and the cities that you visit. If a city is known to have high numbers of citizens immigrating to Syria or places, like Chechnya, then you have to be careful when you decide to visit or study there. If the city has a history of attacks or is known to have high tensions, like Paris, it is important to factor that into your decision. When you visit countries or different cities the residents of these places know about these issues – talk to them! They will give you honest information and the more information you have about your surroundings the better.
Fortunately, many European cities are hyper vigilant and are working to confront these issues. They have increased security in airports. They monitor who is coming in and out of countries that have high populations of these radicalized groups. They track social media. There are ongoing efforts to keep Europeans and those visiting the continent safe. It is your job though if you go abroad to always be cognizant of your surroundings and do your best to be informed.
*UPDATE: Since this article was originally written there has been another terrorist attack in Pakistan.*