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Most U.S. Students Stick to London Plans

July 27, 2005

BOSTON (AP) _ Maiah Johnson isn’t about to let the recent terrorist bombings derail her long-standing dream of spending a semester studying in London.

``I’m nervous but I realize some people deal with this every day of their lives, so why shouldn’t I deal with it for a semester?″ said the Connecticut College junior from the Boston suburb of Weston, who still plans to leave in September.

Most American students seem to have the same attitude. About 31,000 of them study in the United Kingdom every year, more than in any other foreign country, according to the Institute of International Education. Many go to London, and only a handful of those students appear to have cut short summer programs because of the attacks or canceled plans to go in the fall.

The response is good news for British universities, many of which rely on Americans to fill vacant dorm beds and help balance their budgets. With tuition for domestic students capped by law, British schools generally can charge more to Americans, who are used to higher college costs.

After the London bombings on July 7, program administrators in the United States say they fielded anxious phone calls from parents and put into action long-standing emergency plans for tracking down students and making sure they were safe.

``We’re committed to giving our students this kind of an experience because, there’s a sense on our part and a sense on their part, that this is more important than ever,″ said Jim Buschman, senior associate director of international programs at Syracuse University, where none of the 150 students planning to be in London this fall have canceled for security reasons.

Syracuse has a painful history with terrorism in Great Britain: It lost 35 students in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988.

But Buschman said there’s no reason to think students would be safer elsewhere, and shutting down the program isn’t the answer. Syracuse, like other schools, also operates a program in Madrid and went through the same debate after the March 2004 bombings there.

Some programs offered refunds for students wishing to leave after the bombings, and others let them change to another site for the fall _ though visa issues limit those options.

The Chicago-based Institute for the International Education of Students, which runs programs for students at 160 schools, hired a bus to transport students in London and offered to pay for taxis for students with internships and nervous about public transportation _ in one case picking up a $150 fare.

Seven Mississippi State students preparing for a London program when the terrorists struck pulled out _ but the other 177 went on. Many of the larger programs, including IES, Tufts, and Boston University, said most students were sticking to their plans to go this fall.

Western Carolina University canceled a summer program set to begin right after the first bombing _ but because of concerns from faculty, not students. Also, the contingent included criminal justice students who were expecting to be taught by local experts; WCU figured they would be tied up with the investigation.

Some parents were upset by the decision to cancel, but Malcolm Loughlin, who oversees WCU’s summer program, said he stands by it. ``I’m sure their opinions were changed last Thursday when there was another (bombing) attempt,″ he said.

But Johnson says she’s as determined as ever to go.

``When we graduate we’re going to have to deal with a whole bunch of stuff by ourselves, so why not start now?″ she said. ``I think it’ll make the study abroad experience even better. It’s going to teach me adversity. I’m going to have to learn to live by myself.″

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