College students around the country are dusting off their passports and digging out their moth-eaten beach duds in preparation for that wild-and-crazy drunken free-for-all (or at least the well-deserved break from classes) that is spring break.
But as protests of possible war stir around the globe, all travelers have the added worries of anti-American sentiment abroad, and high terrorist alerts on the home front. Both have the potential to hinder travel.
But is there really anything for SDSU students to be worried about?
Not really, aside from just exercising normal caution, according to Ryan Howlett, alumni programs coordinator. Howlett will chaperone the SDSU Concert Choir on a 10-day trip to the Netherlands and France, and has been getting information from International Programs Director Harriet Swedlund.
“The biggest concern we have is that we just want all of our students who travel internationally over spring break to be safe,” he said.
“(Students) just need to think more than they have in the past … there’s a lot of anti-American sentiment.”
Howlett advised choir students to accept other cultures, and try not to compare then to the United States. He also suggested dressing to fit in more on foreign streets, including dressing in darker clothing and avoiding wearing stereotypical “American” clothing like bright athletic shoes and baseball hats.
Most importantly, he urges travelling students to try and expand their horizons and immerse themselves in a new culture.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is also promoting caution, but not necessarily more than should always be practiced on foreign soil.
In a Feb. 7 press release, the department put the United States on a Code Orange terrorist alert. While the alert, the second highest warning level of five, allows for limited points of entry and exit in and out of the United States, enhanced identification checks and some restrictions on travel abroad, it also recommends that Americans not cancel events or change travel plans.
Several South Dakota State University students who were interviewed said they weren’t especially concerned about travel safety due to terrorist threats.
“I don’t know if I’m more worried about (the alert), just more about airport security,” said senior nursing major Tracy Knock, who is flying to Las Vegas.
“My roommate said somebody she knows just went to Vegas and said they had to unzip their pants to check for (security threats) around the zipper.”
“I guess I’m freaking out a little, but probably because I’m scared to fly anyway,” she added.
Knock also said if travel is nationally restricted for some reason, she and her party plan on renting a car and driving back to Brookings.
“If we get stuck here, then I will probably just be going home to work.”
Student Jill Wadsworth, also a nursing major, is flying to Florida over break to board a cruise to the Bahamas.
“I don’t know if I really have any concerns,” she said.
Wadsworth said her group doesn’t have an alternate travel plan.
“We’ll just sort of take it as it comes,” she said.
“Hopefully I’m just in Florida when it happens … or someplace warm.”
Senior Jon Melby will travel to the Netherlands and France with the SDSU Concert Choir.
“I don’t really have any real concerns or anything,” he said.
“Just general tips … keep your eyes open, (look for anything) out of the ordinary … I guess we’re just gonna wing it.”
In a press release sent to colleges around the country by the U.S. Department of State, the terror alert isn’t even mentioned.
Instead, it urges students to act responsibly, and in accordance with the laws and customs of the country they are visiting.
According to the release, 2,500 American citizens a year are arrested abroad, about half on narcotics charges, including possession of very small amounts of drugs. It urges students to remember they aren’t protected by American laws while on foreign soil, and have little power to get Americans out of foreign jails.
For more information on travel safety tips, visit the Department of State’s web site at http://travel.state.gov/studentinfo.html.