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Y. study-abroad students lying low

On war's first day, they stay safe by staying in dorms

PROVO — Students in Brigham Young University's study-abroad courses spent Thursday in their dorms or apartments to avoid any chance of becoming targets of retaliation after the United States attacked Iraq.

The students, participating in programs in London, Paris, Romania, New Zealand, China and the Dominican Republic, returned to their studies today, said Rod Boynton, BYU director of international studies programs.

"We're assessing the situation in each different location," Boynton said. "We've been assured the students aren't in any danger."

In an e-mail to the Deseret News, student Callie Buys said she feels "quite safe" at the BYU London Center.

"(I) have not, at any point, felt threatened because I am an American," she said.

But she is still playing it safe trying to "remain unobtrusive in public settings, just in case," she wrote.

The more than 300 Utah students currently abroad are sponsored by programs that get security information from the U.S. State Department and other sources who live in the host countries.

BYU, the University of Utah and Utah State University have the majority of Utah students abroad. Each school has a slightly different process for evaluating safety levels, but all have contingency plans.

"We've been in regular contact with the program directors, and all indications are that they are safe and not being threatened," Boynton said. "They are experiencing not so much anti-American reaction but anti-U.S. policy and anti-Bush reaction. Students are still able to move around and conduct their studies. And as long as they can have a meaningful experience, we want them to stay."

BYU officials sent students home from the university's Jerusalem Center two years ago because of the escalation in hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis.

The center remains open to the public, with a minimum staff and a handful of volunteer couples, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said Friday.

One Utah woman, Cathy Chambless, says she worries about global anti-American reprisals if the United States attacks Iraq. How couldn't she?

Chambless' husband, Tim, and her daughter, Dominique, are studying abroad in Japan and India. Tim is a U. professor; Dominique a U. student.

In part, Chambless' fears are quelled by her own experiences in foreign countries.

Last year, the three went on a study trip to India. Her daughter went again this year.

"The people were so friendly. It is not any more dangerous being in a Third World country than it is being at home in the U.S.," Chambless said, pointing to Sept. 11, 2001, and government warnings about other possible terrorist attacks.

Chambless has received a few e-mails from her husband and daughter, and both say they are not concerned about their safety.

The U. has students in India, Japan, Ecuador and Western Europe.

Study abroad administrators encourage students to help avoid becoming targets by not living up to American stereotypes.

"We want our students to stay away from McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Americanized dance clubs . . . to keep them out of harm's way," Boynton said.

All Utah schools plan on keeping students abroad.


E-MAIL: jparkinson@desnews.com; twalch@desnews.com