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AFTER NOVEMBER 13: A Safety-and-well-being Kit

In the days immediately following recent terrorist action in Paris, IFE spoke with its students, in all three cities. For students in Paris things are bit more intense, or hyper-real. What follows is a synthesis of those conversations especially concerning IFE’s Paris programs.

OUR FEELINGS Like all Parisians, students need to voice their reactions, express feelings (quite possibly a range of feelings), and talk about where they were, what it has been like since. Students have been in Europe nearly three months and are urged to take advantage of their own integration, their own circles at work, in their residences, their social circles, to engage these conversations with those around them. [IFE staff are also fully available, and have resources for those who need help.]

Students are urged to spend a few minutes everyday getting informed about what is going on and the various discussions in the press. Time spent on social media does not fulfill this need. The news and background material available online from serious media are essential for students to understand what is going on, how did we get to here, who or what is the target, what are some of the ways forward, and what does this mean for French society, among other questions. Students agree that knowledge, understanding and perspective are the best weapons against fear, while fear is the terrorist’s best weapon. This also is a good subject of conversation for students in their various milieus.

Students are requested to follow both police orders and common sense. For the moment large public assemblies are against the rules, and students have been instructed to avoid any such event. Large dense collections of people in areas difficult to control should be avoided, for example department stores. On the other hand museums are quite safe since they are used to enforcing strict security. Students are asked to keep in close contact with at least one classmate and/or IFE staff.

OUR PARENTS Students can be a very useful source of information for their parents and loved ones, who are greatly removed from the situation in Paris and are reliant on cable news for an idea of what is going on. Students are urged to make an effort to calm the fears of loved ones, to take a lead role in describing the situation and evaluating risk, in a sense to invert the normal parent-child role. It will help if students describe to loved ones their conversations with those around them, their daily life since the events of Friday, the scenes of life on the street, in the cafés, etc.

OUR RISK A realistic conversation about risk is a basic element of discussions with students. Themes of the conversation: there is no zero-risk; what is the current level of risk, is it acceptable, what behavior can be adopted to reduce risk. What is the relation – and the difference – between risk and fear.

OUR PLACE IN PARIS Students are reminded that if IFE determines in consultation with the authorities that the risk for a student remaining in Paris is too high then it will close its programs and make arrangements in conjunction with home universities for students to complete as much as possible the semester’s work back home. There is no reason for a student sojourning in France to remain if there is real and heightened danger. But in the meantime, if they remain, students are encouraged to participate fully in the life and discussions around them, to remain attached – and even more so – to their local ties and contacts. Students are urged to reflect on how and to what extent, after traumatic events such as recently in Paris, they are even more connected, implicated. If true, then it is important to recognize this implication and to act on it, to avoid a reverse phenomenon of alienation and disconnectedness. This is not at all the same as using a tragic event as a “learning opportunity”. Students are simply urged to live fully the results of a decision to stay in place after tragic events.

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