After a plane broke apart mid-air over the Sinai Peninsula and the rise of speculation regarding a potential missile attack, tourism in Egypt has all but halted. The Russian passenger jet Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed over Egypt near the village of Housna only 23 minutes into its flight back to St. Petersburg on Saturday, October 31.
Jana Mathews, a faculty leader for the Rollins Spring Break field study originally scheduled for Egypt next semester, reminds us to keep an open mind in evaluating the tragedy.
“Like everyone, I was horrified and saddened when I first read about the Russian plane crash. As I followed the story somewhat obsessively in subsequent days, I was increasingly reminded of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s popular TED talk on the dangers of a viewing anything or anyone from a single perspective,” she said.
“The plane crash is a tragedy certainly deserving of international attention and focus, but one of the unfortunate consequences of this incident is the creation of a ‘single story’ of Egypt that centers on political instability, violence, and terrorism.”
While both Mathews and Giselda Beaudin, another faculty leader for the trip as well as the Director of International Programs, do not believe there would be immediate danger to travelers in Egypt, they were unwilling to take risks with the safety and well-being of Rollins students nor the generosity of the alumni donor subsidizing most of the trip.
During the first week of November, faculty leaders discussed alternate possibilities for the planned field study and whether to continue with Egypt as a destination.
On November 8, the decision was made to change the location to Peru. Beaudin described the factors involved in the decision: “Essentially, we decided to take a more conservative stance in this case, move the field study location to Peru, and adjust the associated courses accordingly. . . The bottom line for many students and parents was that Rollins wouldn’t send students somewhere where they are likely to have significant health and safety issues. We live in a really volatile world, and while we can’t guarantee the health and safety of our students here in Winter Park or abroad, we do everything we can to make sure our students studying abroad are not exposed to unusual health and safety risks.”
She also explained the process by which this decision was reached.
“While we do not believe that the recent plane crash raises security risks for our field study, which did not include Sharm El Sheikh, we were concerned by the possibility of continued and increased security incidents involving tourists in Egypt over the coming months. . . Since government travel information can be influenced by political relationships between countries, we always find it helpful to look at a range of governments to gain a better sense of risks,” she said.
“That said, we were also aware that other study abroad programs in Egypt—through other schools and organizations—were still running normally.”
Despite the change in itinerary, students remain just as enthusiastic about the chance to explore Peru.
Minoska Hernandez ’17, who will be going on the field study next semester, said, “My parents were a bit worried, and I was wondering is any changes would occur. However, I trust the school and professors leading the field study and I know that our safety is first priority. . . It will be so incredible having the chance to explore Machu Picchu and the different cities of Peru. I am still just as excited for this field study despite the change of plans and am really grateful that I have the opportunity to go.”
Although Egypt has many things to offer, and, as Mathews said, “Egypt is incredible and a visit there belongs on everyone’s bucket list,” the decision to divert to Peru seems to have been the right one.