A sense of relief came over me as I clicked the submit button on my application.
Little did I know my excitement would quickly turn to worries and questioning thoughts.
A year ago today, I signed up for the adventure of a lifetime: Lehigh in Paris. Family and friends made comments ranging from “You’re crazy!” to “Aren’t you scared there is going to be another terrorist attack?” to “Why are you going abroad at a time like this?”
Each time my response was simply the same: “You can’t live your life in fear.”
I understood their concerns because I applied for the program just three months after the November terrorist attacks killed at least 130 people. A few months later there were other major attacks. Of course people asked questions and family and friends were nervous for me.
Even while I was abroad, there were other attacks — one which occurred in Nice, France, killed 85 people. In fact, my flight from Paris to the U.S. was canceled because of a terror threat in the Orly Airport.
Fear surrounded me, but I couldn’t let fear paralyze me. I was determined to be aware, make smart decisions and ignore the constant worry. I didn’t want fear to stop me from having an incredible abroad experience.
Fear exists all around us. Everyone has a phobia.
In 2016, a Chapman University poll of the top 10 fears Americans have showed corrupt government officials and terrorist attacks at the top of the list.
With everyone constantly reminding me about fear and terrorism, my thought process was: why should I give up an opportunity to learn and mature because of the unrest around the world? Why did I need to live with terrorphobia?
Of course, on some level I remained scared and vigilant. Would there be another attack close to my dorm? Would I have difficulty getting back to the U.S. because of reoccurring terrorist attacks? Should I stay away from high-density tourist areas?
Halfway through the trip I experienced people’s emotional response to the Nice attack firsthand.
Families, couples and the elderly mourned in silence, gathering around churches and lighting candles in response to the tragedy. Stillness filled the shops and bakeries along the Seine. Not even the aroma of freshly-baked buttery baguettes and croissants permeated the air.
Winding pathways were occupied with soldiers aggressively policing the area, café tables were vacant, espresso lines were non-existent and musicians’ melodies were nowhere to be heard.
The city of lights was experiencing fear and tragedy.
With shock and terror filling the lives of those around me, I knew I needed to continue living life — just more on edge. I kept my purse zipped and close to my body and was more mindful of my surroundings. I even purchased a SIM card to have phone service in case of an emergency. Staying connected with Lehigh and my parents gave me a feeling of security.
The New York Times put out an article in 2007 that stated the average lifetime risk for certain phobias to help put the fear into perspective.
According to the numbers in the article, you are more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash. The difference is significant, with 1 in 84 people likely to die in a car crash and 1 in 5,051 likely to die in an air/space accident.
So ask yourself: Is it safer to travel abroad than to drive or to fly?
Fear is always around us. As I was writing this, Paris police prevented another suspected terrorist attack.
Everyone has a fear of something. Is it public speaking? Spiders? Heights? The truth is you should never succumb to your fears, otherwise your love of life will be forfeited.
The key is to take a step back and evaluate. Ask yourself if this fear will consume your thoughts and energy. Will addressing your fear make you go beyond your comfort zone?
If the answer to both of those questions is yes, understand that the moment you face your fears you can experience another adventure.
Lauryn Ragone, ’17, is an associate news editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.