Graphic communication junior Nina Heintz was only 100 feet away from the attack in Nice, France on July 14. She witnessed a terrorist drive a cargo truck through a crowded Bastille Day celebration, killing 86 people.
Heintz studied abroad for 10 weeks this past summer. She visited 18 cities and 10 countries, and the weekend that she decided to visit Nice happened to coincide with the attack.
“All of a sudden you just see thousands of people starting to run, and then you have to run,” Heintz said.
While Cal Poly students are mindful of recent terrorist attacks around the world, most refuse to let fear destroy their dreams of studying abroad. A recent online survey put out by Mustang News indicates that a majority of students who have studied abroad or plan to study abroad will not allow terrorism activities to impact their plans.
Terrorism was not something Heintz was considering before studying abroad, but she now has a “whole new view.”
“I thought I was going to die, legitimately. I was just praying,” Heintz said.
Heintz is one of many students who has participated in Cal Poly’s study abroad program, and isn’t the only one who experienced the attacks abroad. According to a Mustang News survey, 10.1 percent of the students who participated in the survey were abroad during a terrorist attack.
According to Associate Director for Study Abroad Monica Schechter, 17.9 percent of Cal Poly students will study abroad before graduating, and U.S. student participation in study abroad programs has more than tripled over the past two decades.
“Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing academic mission shows our commitment to hands-on educational experiences such as study abroad,” Schechter said.
Schechter revealed that students don’t typically mention terrorism when considering studying abroad. She did note, however, that the study abroad office receives more concern from the parents. A few survey respondents also mentioned that the attacks have made their parents more nervous.
The next day, Heintz and her friends visited the memorials honoring those harmed in the attack.
“It was just surreal,” Heintz said. “Seeing all of the memorials with the flowers, and pictures and teddy bears. It’s surreal.”
This trip didn’t just shape her college experience, it shaped who she is as a person, Heintz said.
“Studying abroad made me more confident and independent. You do so much on your own,” Heintz said.
Though this experience had a large impact on Nina, she’d like to face her fears and return to Nice.