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ISSUE 116 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2003

War worries lead college to take safety precautions

By Carolyn Brostrom
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 14, 2003

With the pending war in Iraq, Americans and St. Olaf students have many concerns, including their personal safety both at home and abroad. The International and Off-Campus Studies office remains alert during this time of international tension while maintaining high numbers of students participating in off-campus and abroad programs. Their goal is to keep students educated and aware of the possible dangers of off-campus study. Most participants have not run into problems.

Kathy Tuma, associate director of off-campus studies, keeps an optimistic attitude toward abroad studies. There are no changes to date to any of the 2003 abroad interim or spring programs. St. Olaf is proactive in keeping students and parents thoroughly informed; the office is far from being flooded with calls.

The office does, however, have plenty of applications for abroad programs on their hands. Although it is too early to determine if any trips scheduled for next year will be altered or cancelled altogether, all programs are planned to operate.

Many on-site contacts, U.S. Embassies, State Department Ad-visories and foreign information services provide vital information necessary to determine if any changes must be made to the programs and to ensure the safety of students while abroad.

Students returning from recent abroad trips encountered anti-war and anti-Bush sentiments, but not much hostility towards American citizens. Katie Rusch ‘05, just returning from an interim trip to Germany, encountered many Europeans interested in discussing the war with Americans. She said that many boldly opposed the war, pointing out that a war has not been fought on American soil for years. "People would tell us that we have no concept of what war is," Rusch said.

Rusch commented that Germans in general seem upset about the prospect of war with Iraq. She witnessed an anti-war rally and saw public signs speaking out for the sake of peace. On another trip to Germany last year, Rusch received much sympathy in light of the Sept. 11th attacks.

Aram Desteian ‘05 applied to term in the Middle East, semester in Washing-ton, D.C., and semester in Aberdeen, scheduled for next year. He trusts St. Olaf to take proper precautions and feels he will always be in good hands. Desteian said he is pensive and thoughtful, but not scared.

"I’m not going to pass up a great opportunity just because there is a chance of something bad happening," he said.

The number of applicants for the term in the Middle East has been low for three or four years, but interest wasn’t lower this year than last year, according to Tuma.

Tuma reports that after comparing the amount of applications received this year to the last few years, numbers for all programs look good. "We’re really proud of our students for sticking in there," she said.

In its dedication to international and off-campus studies, St. Olaf continues to live up to its reputation for having one of the best study-abroad programs in the country and it overcomes political obstacles to continue offering students a worldly, cultured education.

"It’s more important now than ever that people understand what’s happening in the world," Tuma said.

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