The semester of living dangerously: 10 of the dodgiest study-abroad locales
Yes, the United States Department of State is filled with ninnies, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to those ninnies when they tell you to avoid demonstrations in foreign countries. After all, good advice can come from anyone.
Kenyon College student Andrew Pochter didn’t listen. He was in Egypt to teach English to children and to practice his own Arabic, just in time for massive protests and an eventual coup d’état.
Pochter, 21, was present during clashes in Alexandria between supporters and opponents of the country’s since-deposed president. A protester stabbed him in the chest. He later died in an Egyptian hospital. (RELATED: The American killed in Egypt during violent protests was there teaching English)
You — or your children — may be interested in risking the same fate in the name of tourism. Alternatively, you might want to learn about some places to avoid because you want to avoid the same fate.
Either way, The Daily Caller is here to help. Below are 10 thrilling locales where you can study abroad as an American college student and also risk life and limb.
Over 50 percent of the junior class at highfalutin Middlebury College studies abroad. One possible locale is Alexandria, Egypt — “the Pearl of the Mediterranean” and “a popular travel destination for Egyptians, writers, and foreigners alike,” touts the Middlebury website. Just watch your back. “Clashes have broken out in the Egyptian city of Alexandria between anti- and pro-government supporters that have left at least one dead and more than 80 wounded,” reported an authority no less than Al Jazeera in late June. American student Andrew Pochter was killed at a protest in Alexandria last week. The State Department’s travel webpage on Egypt has a novella concerning “threats to safety and security.” Molotov cocktails and “burning debris” are among a throng of problems.
Students at the State University of New York College at Cortland can spend up to a year in the colonial city of Merida, Venezuela, “deep in the heart of the Venezuelan Andes.” Cortland State’s website calls the surrounding area “unspoiled by the onslaught of tourism” — earnest college students excluded, of course. However, the Chavez (and post-Chavez) era has fallen slightly short of a socialist paradise. The State Department’s travel webpage on Venezuela calls violent crime “pervasive” and notes that “the country’s overall per capita murder rate is cited as one of the top five in the world.” Kidnappings occur regularly. Armed robberies are also ubiquitous, “including in areas generally presumed safe and frequented by tourists.”
Syracuse University students can take courses such as theory of architecture, travel writing and, of course, the history of jazz at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul, Turkey. The exotic capital is justly famous for “magnificent historic monuments,” “sophisticated old-world culture,” and cosmopolitan chic. The historic city is also home to ongoing clashes between masses of reform-minded protesters and government security forces. “Individuals caught in the vicinity of violence have been injured and/or detained, including U.S. citizens,” notes the State Department’s travel webpage on Turkey. “Violence, injuries, and at least two confirmed deaths” have resulted from chaotic protests all over the country.
In 1994, the Hutus of Rwanda slaughtered at least 500,000 Tutsis. If you can’t get enough of this atrocity, check out the SIT Study Abroad program in Kigali, Rwanda. It’s dedicated to exploring the genocide and a subsequent peacebuilding process in minute detail. Key features include fieldwork techniques on genocide and excursions galore. The State Department’s travel page on Rwanda is packed with excitement. Various armed groups stalk the borders. Grenade attacks aimed at the local populace and small-bomb detonations occur periodically in population centers. American embassy personnel can’t leave the Kigali city limits after 6 p.m. — or use certain taxis. There’s also a huge, active volcano just across the western border in the far more dangerous Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Students who attend the 14 liberal arts schools in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (e.g., Cornell College, Ripon College) can spend the fall semester studying the Middle East, Islamic culture and Arabic in Amman, Jordan, “the expansive, lively capital of the Hashemite Kingdom.” However, the State Department’s travel webpage on Jordan warns that violent demonstrations, tribal violence, roadside bombs and the occasional rocket could spoil your whole semester. Transnational and local terrorist groups — including Al-Qaida – “have demonstrated the capability to plan and implement attacks.” Targets may include “tourist sites, hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs,” and the like. The State Department recommends that you “be unpredictable” in your times and routes. “Maintaining a low profile” is another tip to boost your confidence.
A semester-long SIT Study Abroad program based in Yaounde, Cameroon focuses on the history, economic development and culture of all things Cameroonian. “Home to more than 200 ethnic groups and even more local languages and dialects, Cameroon faces the challenge of finding common ground for its national agenda,” notes SIT. The State Department’s travel webpage on Cameroon advises that there was substantial civil unrest in the country as recently as 2008. Potentially precarious elections loom. Highways are hazardous, especially at night. Border areas near Chad and the Central African Republic are dodgy. Crime, including carjacking and piracy, is endemic throughout the country. U.S. embassy employees aren’t allowed to take taxis anywhere. In 2011, over 20 Peace Corps volunteers were robbed at gunpoint in Kribi.
Students at the College of Charleston can spend a summer in Bali, Indonesia studying “the natural and human ecology of the tropics” and staying primarily on the premises of a luxurious resort. The lush tourist destination of Bali is gorgeously peaceful except for the terrorists (and a minor epidemic of cocktail-spiking incidents). As the State Department’s travel webpage on Indonesia recalls, in 2002 a violent Islamic group bombed popular nightclubs in beautiful Bali, killing and maiming hundreds of foreign tourists and Indonesian citizens. Car bombs have exploded in Bali and Jakarta in recent years. “Be vigilant and prudent at all times,” the State Department advises. “Monitor local news reports, vary your routes and times, and maintain a low profile.” Tsunamis are an ever-present possibility, too, just so you know.
Gringos at many American colleges and universities study abroad in Mexico. Most destinations are perfectly safe, of course. Tourism is among the largest sources of foreign exchange for our amigos to the south. At the same time, the State Department’s Mexico travel webpage devotes some 2,800 words to various dangers on offer. “Rape and sexual assault continue to be serious problems in resort areas.” “Street crime, ranging from pick pocketing to armed robbery” afflicts major cities. Extortion by the police is frequent. Carjackings and busjackings are practically a tradition. (American embassy and consulate personnel are ostensibly prohibited from hailing taxis on the street.) Other problems include murders, beatings, abductions, ATM-card skimming and scams of all kinds, including one called “virtual kidnapping.”
The exotic Mediterranean port city of Beirut, Lebanon is home to ancient splendor, glitzy modernity, a hopping nightclub scene and some of the most attractive people anywhere. It’s also home to numerous extremist groups and perpetual threats of serious, spontaneous violence. And, of course, there’s a big civil war happening next door in Syria. “The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon.” (This mild-sounding language is State Departmentese equivalent of yelling: “Do not come here!”) As such, it’s no surprise that Boston University has suspended a program that allows students to enroll directly for a semester (or two) at the American University of Beirut.
At study-abroad-happy Kalamazoo College, most students spend time someplace far-flung. The program at the University of Nairobi in Nairobi, Kenya is currently not accepting applications, perhaps because the State Department’s travel page on the African nation reads like exciting pulp fiction. “Suicide operations, bomb and grenade attacks, kidnappings,” and the like are commonplace. “At least 76 people died in these attacks, and around 220 people were injured” in such attacks “in the past year.” “There have been several incidents of violence against Kenyan and foreign adults in rural areas who are suspected of stealing children.” Also, “crime is high.” “Armed assailants” roam all over, including in national parks and game reserves. “Nairobi averages about ten vehicle hijackings per day.”