The Chronicle’s View: The show must go on in foreign lands

It has been nearly three years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but Americans won’t soon forget where they were or how they felt when they first received word of the attack on America.

But it was more than an attack on the United States and its citizens-it was an attack on humankind. That is why, in part, the entire world mourned together with us that day and in ensuing weeks and months. When human life is taken-especially in such a violent manner-everybody suffers.

Exactly 2 1/2 years after the terrorist attacks, on March 11, 202 lives were taken and 1,400 more people were injured in a series of train bombings in Madrid. But did we mourn with Spaniards as they mourned with us not long ago? Have we already forgotten what it feels like to be robbed of innocent life?

In a global world, where there are no more “isolated” incidents pertinent only to certain areas of the globe, each of us is affected in one way or another by others’ suffering. For example, six U students were participating in a study-abroad program at the time of the bombings. Fortunately, all were unharmed by the terrorist attacks. But it has raised the question of whether or not it is safe anymore for students to live and study abroad.

If the students’ response to the recent events in Spain is any indication of whether or not action should be taken to terminate study-abroad programs-and it should be-then the show must go on. Only one out of 40 students registered through the U’s study-abroad program to study in Spain this summer has withdrawn his name.

At the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, nearly 35 U students were living in Washington, D.C., participating in internships sponsored by the Hinckley Institute of Politics. Almost all of the interns remained to finish the term of their internships. The Hinckley Institute continues to send interns to the nation’s capital and other parts of the nation.

So, too, should students continue to embrace study-abroad opportunities afforded by the International Center. Living and studying in a foreign country increases students’ cultural awareness and sensitivity. It not only provides an optimum environment for learning a foreign language, it helps students understand their place in a changing world, especially in relation to people and traditions different from their own.

And that might just be the key to building necessary bridges to cross the chasm created by a misunderstanding of others’ traditions and cultural values.