Claire Ballor, Contributing Writer
With four weeks already gone by, the fall Rome class has become quite accustomed to life in Italy. Italian phrases have been memorized, favorite restaurants and cafés have been staked out, and the streets of Rome are now familiar territory.
The second three-day open travel weekend of the semester this past weekend gave students another opportunity to leave the comfort of Rome and venture again into unfamiliar territory. The adventures of the previous open travel weekend had already taught them a few travel tips – for example, trains do not and will never wait for you, five euro can make a significant difference in your hostel experience, and rolling suitcases are never a good idea – but this weekend, University of Dallas students learned a more serious lesson.
As students back home may know, the recent release of an anti-Muslim film in America has triggered a wave of protests in North Africa against the United States. One of these protests involved the assassination of the American ambassador in Libya, while others have been organized protests outside of American embassies in various countries. Most UD students were in countries such as Spain and Poland when these events took place, and were not affected.
Breaking off from the crowd, I chose instead to visit the Muslim city of Marrakech, Morocco. While I did not witness any direct effects of the protests and riots happening in other parts of North Africa, I found that it was safer telling those around me that I was from Italy instead of America, and took precautions to stay away from large crowds, especially crowds of tourists. With global events such as these happening within close proximity of where Rome students are living and traveling, many UD Romers have given a second thought to safety, something that did not seem like an issue prior to the protests. Though personally unaffected by the protests in her travels to Milan this weekend, Lily Ramsay, a history major and fall Rome student, was reminded of the importance of safe and prudent travel.
“I like to travel alone a lot, so this has definitely reminded me of how important it is to plan your trips well, understand the culture that you are entering and submerse yourself so that you can blend in as best as possible,” Ramsay said. “All Rome students should take something away from this. Things like this really are happening around us and we need to be aware of them as traveling, American students.”
Other students expressed similar concerns, suggesting that safety will be a more central consideration as they plan their trips from weekend to weekend, country to country. The Romers said that they would not travel in fear, but rather with a deeper awareness of the real possibility of danger, taking precautions accordingly.