Being in Paris During the Attacks: What It Taught Me
How these tragic incidents make us go about travel with a different mindset
When you make the decision of studying abroad, you constantly hear that you will see the world in a new light. Your experiences will shape you in more ways than you could possibly imagine. Being in Paris the weekend of the horrific terrorist attacks, my perception of the world changed entirely. Never once in my life did I think I would hear an actual explosion, nor did I expect to be in walking distance of a terrorist attack. No one ever plans for these things, nor are you ever really prepared. My experience in Paris reshaped the way I look at studying abroad. In no way will it stop me from traveling, but it will make go about it in a different way.
My friends and I were eating in a restaurant six blocks from the shootings. Friends and family members messaged us, informing us on what was happening. It seemed as if we were the only ones in the restaurant that knew it was occurring. Wait staff began to go in out, all urgently making phone calls. Once we realized the magnitude of what was happening, we got the check, paid, then rushed home. What was eerie about the walk back to the AirBnB was how unalarmed everyone seemed to be. The streets echoed with the sounds of sirens. We ran into our apartment, and quickly tried to get in contact with our families, letting them all know we were safe. Our AirBnB didn’t have any wifi, nor a television, so we had to rely on getting news from our family and friends. Once we were back in the apartment, chaos began to emerge on the streets. There was the constant cry of sirens from the street. We could constantly hear the sound of other residents running up the staircase, rushing to get home. My friends and I all heard a loud booming noise, at first not knowing what it was, later to learn it was another explosion.
We stayed inside for the remainder of our stay. The night was unnerving, and we never knew if the attacks were actually over. We were able to remain safe, and get back to London on our intended flight. The weekend was nerve wracking, however it opened up my eyes to the world we live in. We experienced a darker side of the world, something I’ve always been naive to consider when traveling. We hear about travesties like this on the news, but we never consider it to happen to us. I still am grateful for having been one of the lucky ones, the events of Friday night could have easily gone very differently for me.
As students make the decision to study abroad, I believe they should have this in the back of their minds. I’m not saying that one should be fearful when traveling, but you should go about it with a certain level of caution. Don’t be naive. It doesn’t matter where you’re traveling, or if you’re still back in the states, we all should realize that this can happen anywhere. I’m studying abroad for two semesters, and in no way will this experience make me cut my trip short, but it will make me consider more when traveling. We shouldn’t live in fear, this shouldn’t stop us from living our lives, but we can’t live blindly to the world we live in.
Always take these precautions when traveling, just to ensure that you are constantly safe.
1. Always make sure your family knows where you are
First off, this is just important to let your parents and friends to live at ease. Always let them know your location simply so they know you’re safe. This was exponentially important when in Paris, because it became world news so rapidly. If something dangerous begins to occur, it’ always important that your loved ones know immediately that you’re okay.
2. Register with the Embassy
This is something that should happen every time you travel, even if it’s just a short weekend trip. I arrived in Paris on the friday of the attacks, and other than my family no one knew I was there. By registering with the embassy on where you are traveling, they send you constant updates on what is happening. If the situation worsens, they are able to help you find a way out.
3. Make sure your home university and abroad university know where you are
Like the above two, this is important 1. they want to make sure you’re safe and 2. they can help you find a way home if need be. My home university from the states called me when I was in my apartment, letting me know what was the safe thing for me to do in that situation. My abroad university also was constantly notifying my friends and I once we let them know we were in Paris. Both can be helpful in letting you know what to do, and both want to make sure you are safe.
Experience the world, there’s too much to see to let events like this stop us. I will always have this weekend at the back of my mind when traveling, not because I’m paranoid, but simply because we live in a world where there’s always the slight possibility of it happening. Explore, have fun, learn, be safe.