LONDON – It has not been a typical semester for American students studying abroad in Europe. Aside from the lingual and cultural differences, students have had to deal with rising anti-war and anti-American sentiment, particularly in London.
Last weekend’s protesters flooded the streets of all major cities on the continent as hundred of thousands demanded a peaceful resolution in Iraq and decried President Bush’s military proposals. American students in London say the protests have left them with mixed emotions.
“It’s not a great feeling to have this going on,” said Beth Wilion, a junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying at the London School of Economics. “It’s kind of discomforting to live here and hear people speaking badly about America.”
Wilion said she has very little contact with Carnegie Mellon as she is directly enrolled at LSE for the year. She noted that it has been difficult for some full-year exchange students, including herself, because they have “had to experience the developments (of this war) away from America.”
LSA junior Naomi Yodkovik, studying at Queen Mary College, said she did not realize how strong the anti-war sentiment was until she arrived.
“I heard rumors about it, but I figured they were exaggerated,” she said. “I feel that the people here are not well-informed on the issues. The media’s bad at representing both sides.”
Victoria Golshani, a junior from Emory University who is also studying at Queen Mary, said she has been one of the unfortunate few to see anti-American sentiment up close.
During her first week in the city, her Jack the Ripper tour in the East End was abruptly halted after children began throwing stones at the tourists. One woman on the tour was severely injured and taken to the hospital.
Many universities have sent their students studying abroad an e-mail urging them to be cautious. The University’s Office of International Programs sent such an e-mail last week, stating it would be best for those abroad to stay away from typical American venues, such as McDonald’s, and not wear University or other noticeably American apparel.
Emory’s students in London received directions to a University safe haven in the city in the event of an emergency.
But most exchange students agree that they continue to feel safe in London.
Yodkovik said that overall, she has not experienced any major problems being an American in Europe.
Wilion said she has not taken extra steps to ensure her personal safety.
“I’m avoiding large groups and going to certain places, but I can’t say I’m taking any more precautions than I normally do,” she said.
But Golshani said that at times, she has had to suppress her political opinions around Europeans, especially her support for the war and Israel.
“There are some things in America you would talk about, but here, they’re just a lot more closed off about it,” she said.
“I am not open with what my political beliefs are.”