Paris Attacks – Looking Back and Moving Forward

It has just been over a week since the tragic events unfolded in Paris. The world has been shocked and saddened by the loss of innocent lives, and leaders across the globe remain concerned about the potential for additional attacks. Intense controversy and debate has arisen over the best way to decrease the risk of terrorist plots.

In our Facebook groups, as well via phone and email, API has heard from partner universities, parents and students who are concerned about the prudence of traveling internationally and how to do so safety. As I prepare to embark on an international trip with my sons (21, 13), I remain committed to the importance of providing opportunities for increased understanding through sustained interactions and cultural exchange between people of different nations. API has very strong protocols in place to respond to ongoing security concerns and threats. While no one person or entity can be completely prepared for every security risk, we have learned a great deal through the years since we first started sending students abroad almost two decades ago.

API has been operating programs in Europe since 1997, and since then, we have expanded programming to other continents around the world. We continued to operate programs following the attacks in the United States on September 11th, as well as following the March 11, 2004 train bombing in Spain and the July 7, 2005 train and bus bombings in London. The world has changed dramatically in the years since those incidents, and API has adapted and continues to adapt to meet the changing international environment and the needs of today’s students and their families.  We regularly review and adjust our methods of operation on the ground within each country, and we review and modify our Emergency Action Plans as necessary based on the ever-changing world in which we live.  Our practices have changed to allow for even more efficient communication. These changes allowed us after the Paris incident to quickly verify the safety of all of our students in France immediately following the attacks, and to communicate on a broad scale with students, their families and our partner universities.

The U.S. Department of State issued a worldwide travel alert yesterday that alerts U.S. citizens of possible risks of travel due to terrorist threats. This alert advises travelers to avoid large crowds, and to exercise caution and remain vigilant when in public and at holiday festivals and events. We have shared this alert with API students and on-site directors, and reminded them to heed the advice therein and to monitor local media to remain apprised of any developments. As yet, the U.S. Department has not issued a travel warning mandating that U.S. citizens should be evacuated from or avoid traveling to any of our program sites. As such, we will continue to operate our programs following the tenets of our mission statement and core principles.  Our commitment to the safety of our students remains our number one priority, and we will continue to monitor closely any developments, to include travel warnings, governmental statements, news updates and instructions from local and national authorities. We will adjust our programming as necessary to promote the safety of our students (including canceling or changing cultural events, as we have done in light of the current travel alert). If at any point the U.S. State Department advises U.S. citizens to evacuate any of our program sites, we will cancel the program and do all within our power to facilitate the safe return home of our students. Since the Paris attacks, API on-site directors have been in continual communication with our European students abroad, providing guidance and support, as well as reviewing our emergency protocols. Likewise, our stateside staff members have been in touch with students who are preparing to attend our programs in Europe for the winter or spring 2016 sessions, encouraging them to contact our office with any concerns they may have regarding their participation in our programs in the coming months, or to discuss the safety measures we have in place in each site.

We are ever hopeful that we will never have to confront a similar situation again, but we are prepared to respond and support the participants in our programs if another attack should occur in the sites where they study, intern, work, volunteer, teach and experience personal transformation abroad.

In solidarity,

Jennifer Attal Allen

API President

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