Will U.S. Students Continue To Study Abroad After Recent Terror Attacks?

Conor Hilton is spending his summer taking in the sites and neighborhoods of London. The 26-year-old graduate student from Brigham Young University is in Britain’s capital to take classes and co-teach an English literature course at BYU’s satellite campus in London. While the recent spate of terrorism across Europe and the globe may give pause to some U.S. students and their families for study abroad opportunities, Hilton is undeterred.

“Part of the study abroad experience is to make connections and build understanding of other people’s culture,” says Hilton.  It is, “one of the ways to combat these sorts of terror-fear [mentalities] these attacks have been trying to inspire.”

People lay flowers, candles and other items at a makeshift memorial set up on the Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona as they pay tribute to the victims of the Barcelona attack. JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images

But then there’s the headlines: This week’s ISIS attack in Barcelona and a nearby coastal town killed at least 14 people and left 100 injured. The London attacks in June killed eight people, with 48 others seriously wounded. Just a week earlier, an attack outside of Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena killed 22 people, including children and the perpetrator.

In 2015-2016, France, Germany and Belgium were all targeted for attacks and bombings, resulting in over 290 deaths and 1,200 injured, including the perpetrators. But many students like Hilton are still heading to Europe, undaunted. The continent remains the top destination (55%) for U.S. students going abroad.

Four of the top 10 most popular study abroad destinations for U.S. students are U.K., Spain, France and Germany, accounting for 31% of the total 313,415, according to the latest numbers in a 2016 report by the Institute for International Education (IEE), an independent nonprofit organization that partners with the U.S. Department of State. Outside Europe, other magnet countries include Australia, China and Costa Rica.