London Study Abroad Students Safe

London Study Abroad Students are Safe After Attack in City of Westminster

Twelve study abroad Monmouth University students were in London, UK when 52-year-old Khalid Masood killed three pedestrians and injured about 40 others as he drove through a crowd on Westminster Bridge at around 2:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 22.

Masood crashed his car into railings in front of Parliament Yard, before leaving his vehicle, and going through the gate to the Palace of Westminster, where he fatally stabbed Keith Palmer, a 48-year-old unarmed police officer. Moments later, Masood was shot dead, according to The Telegraph.

The events at the bridge took place in under 90 seconds, according to Sky News.

Three miles from the site of the attack is Regent’s University, where study abroad students reside. All twelve of the students were reported safe within the hour according William Mant, the Regents Study Abroad Advisor for inbound students. Some had been in the city itself, while others had been in the dorms at the University, or in class.

“When I first heard about the attack in London, I felt this terrible sadness, like, ‘Not again,’” said Robyn Asaro, Assistant Director of the University’s study abroad program. “Everyone in the office feels the shock. My first thought was, ‘Are our students okay?’ Luckily, I was literally speaking with my colleague from Regent’s when one of the girls contacted him to confirm that everyone in the Monmouth group was safe.”

The study abroad students received notice of the incident in varying ways.

“I was at St. Paul’s Cathedral for class, about 15 minutes away from the attack,” said Jordan Hanley, a junior music industry student. “It was hard to believe at first, because the only information I had originally was that there was a shooting at Parliament, so we (myself, along with the kids in my class) weren’t really sure of the extremity of the incident. It was kind of scary.”

“I was in my history class when the attack happened,” said Brianna McGuire, a junior communication student. “I actually found out via my parents, who texted me from the States to see where I was and if I was okay. When I first heard the news, I was quite nervous; as I knew, some of my friends had a day off and were out exploring the city. It was hard to believe that something like this happened so close by.”

“I was in sociology class, and since I was in charge of letting everyone know about the bus tour [the University’s London study abroad program includes a panoramic bus tour of London, which had been scheduled for that evening; it was cancelled after news of the attack] I had six people text me about the attack and whether or not the tour would still be on,” said Camila Gini, a sophomore business management and marketing student.

“I was a bit shocked but I also felt a bit desensitized to everything since it happens so often,” Gini said. “I waited until after class because I didn’t know the severity of it all. Once I contacted Will (Mant) he immediately asked about the rest of the group, and everyone was pretty active in letting each other know we were okay so I was able to let him know that we were all fine. Then right after that I contacted Robyn (Asaro) to let her know we were fine, as did Will. And then I contacted my family.”

During last year’s Paris attacks in November, University students were also near the affected area. All students were reported safe in that incident as well.

“We have emergency contacts with the schools abroad to ascertain what is happening, and we depends on students checking because they could be anywhere in Europe,” Asaro explained. “Luckily, our students are always compliant.”

“I like to advise students that the same types of activities one would use to stay safe in our country should be used overseas,” said William McElrath, Chief of the Monmouth University Police Department (MUPD). “Be aware of your surroundings, be aware of security arrangements at the foreign institution you are attending, be aware of the political situations in the countries you are visiting and advise people when you will be off campus travelling to other countries or far away locations. I would not discourage students from studying abroad. It is a great experience, but proper caution should always be used.”

McElrath also explained how the University was notified of the attack by the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC), but since there were no connections to the University or the surrounding area, the campus did not raise its threat level or increase its security.

Asaro explained that she hoped that the recent rise in terrorism worldwide would not deter students from studying abroad.

“I have no answers for why we have so much violence in our world, but I would never stop traveling and sit in my house, nervous of ‘what’s out there,’” Asaro said. “There is nothing as amazing as travel and particularly study abroad – it may sound counterintuitive, but I believe that the more we intermingle in the world the safer we are, because people to people interactions can change perceptions of the ‘other’ that are often inaccurate.”