Four Texas Tech University students were found safe in the Belgian capital of Brussels following Tuesday’s explosions in the city’s airport and metro station. The Islamic State claimed credit for the terror attacks, which killed at least 30 people and wounded 230 others. In response to this crisis, the university decided to halt their study abroad program in Belgium.
Texas Tech system spokesman Chris Cook told media outlets that these four individuals were among 89 other Texas Tech students overseas enrolled in the university’s study abroad program offered in more than 70 countries, including Belgium. The four actually studied in one of the Seville, Spain-based programs and traveled to Brussels for spring break, Lubbock ABC-TV affiliate KAMC 28 reported.
University Vice Provost for International Affairs, Tibor Nagy, confirmed that Texas Tech contacted the students after the bombings. “Our office in Seville had already taken a check to see where their students were, since it’s already spring break week when a lot of the students take side trips around Europe. [They said] there were four students who had gone to Brussels, they had checked and verified that they were ok,” Nagy also told the Avalanche-Journal. “They were in their hotel.”
For now, these students are “stuck in Brussels,” Nagy told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “We’re not sure when they will get out of there because all of the public transport stations have been closed down at least [Tuesday]. The airport for sure is going to be closed until [Wednesday], so we’ll see what happens.”
Nagy, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Guinea, said he personally monitors international safety and daily advisories for Texas Tech students in the study-abroad program. He pointed out they take every precaution to carefully screen destinations in advance. “Texas Tech tends to be very conservative in where we send our students. … But even then, tomorrow something could happen in New York City or Washington, D.C., or Oklahoma City.”
He told KCBD 11 (NBC) there will be immediate changes made to the summer and fall programs because of Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels. “Our job here is to really take into consideration, every possible factor and to give our students the safest, most secure experience that they could possibly have.”
That means, for now Texas Tech will suspend student travel to Belgium. “No programs are scheduled now in Brussels or Belgium for the summer, or even the fall,” Nagy said. “I hope it’s a temporary suspension, because Brussels is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it’s been a popular destination.”
He also made clear that students studying elsewhere in Europe will not be permitted to travel to Belgium. Unfortunately, Nagy said Texas Tech dealt with this kind of situation before — during the London subway bombings.
“We actually had a Texas Tech honors group in London, on the subway several stations down,” he said. “These types of things, unfortunately, given the state of the world today, they happen, but we have a prescribed format so that we just go through it and so far, thank God, we’ve been very fortunate that none of our students have been caught up in this.”
Political instability and terrorism forced Texas Tech to terminate student travel to Turkey and the Middle East. “As a consequence, it also narrows our study abroad choices,” Nagy added. “It seems like each year, we have fewer and fewer places to send students as the number of study abroad students grows.”
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.