Students on guard, but not deterred from London trip

Monday, August 1, 2005

Southeast Missouri State University students study abroad in England.

Davis Dunavin signed up for Southeast Missouri State University's Missouri London Program months ago. Planning to depart in September, he will spend his entire fall semester in the city, attending classes and immersing himself in the culture.

Then, 52 Londoners were killed when terrorists attacked three subway train and a bus on July 7. Then London was struck by bombing attacks again July 21, but with no casualties. It is enough to scare any student away from international travel. But Dunavin isn't worried.

"One thing about London, and its Underground, is that they have a good sense of humor. There are signs up everywhere in the subway stations that say 'Please don't eat smelly food' with a picture of a guy eating a huge sandwich. You get a feeling that the people in control know what they're doing and won't freak out easily."

This will be Dunavin's second trip to London. This time, he says he will be more aware. "I'm not going to throw a fit if some guy gets on my train with a backpack, but I'll still keep my eye open. Like traveling to any big city, I expect to be worried, but I won't let it ruin my trip."

Students traveling to London with the program this semester shouldn't be afraid, according to Dr. Philllip Finney, professor of psychology and director of the Missouri London Program. While no new safety measures have been implemented, Finney relies on the success of the program's procedure during the July incidents to keep future students safe. Through a system of communication between students, faculty and staff and campus directors, all students can be accounted for quickly. If the situation requires the students to immediately return to the United States, or counseling is needed, the program takes care of it.

"This procedure was carried out after both of the recent incidents in London," said Finney. "It worked well. Within two hours of the July 7 attack we knew of the status of all but two students, no small accomplishment as most were interns heading to their jobs at the time of the attack. All students were safe. All wished to remain in London. None needed counseling."

Finney said that only the orientation has changed. Students will receive additional information on suspicious people and packages, how to contact faculty and staff immediately if an attack occurs and how to return to campus if the Underground and bus lines aren't running.

Also travelling to London with the program is Dr. Stephen Dilks, an associate professor of English and Irish literature at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. In a mass e-mail to his fellow travellers, he reiterated the heartening attitude expressed by Dunavin and Finney.

"This is a very good time to be in London," he wrote. "We will see Londoners at their best as they unite in response to one more in the long line of attacks on their city... We will see London life and culture at a very cool moment in history. Let's promise that we will not let a bunch of fanatics interfere with our plans; let's show what this trans-Atlantic alliance is all about!"

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