Reflections from Studying Abroad during a Terrorist Attack


KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 14, 2015) — The students from the Conflict Management Masters program were tasked with writing blog posts about their time in Germany. These blog posts on the Conflict Management Tumblr page reflect how the students, who went on the trip, processed the places they visited and the material they learned. Many students also reflected on the Paris attacks, and the effect that the attacks had on their time abroad.


Robin Spivey, Cohort XVI

“The Schengen (passport free) zone, the EU Solidarity Fund which shares the expense of natural disasters, the commitment to renewable energy, the expansion of mediation to cross-border disputes like child-custody and environmental policy, and its expansive human rights protections are indices that the relationship is strong. But, stress can strain even the strongest relationships… like when waves of migrants hit your shores and you cannot accommodate their humanitarian needs, much less register them under the Dublin Rule. Or when your German neighbor invites guests over and you really do not want then parking in front of your house. Or when folks in the community start demanding that your generosity reach a certain number. You may begin wondering if the costs of the relationship outweigh the benefits.

Yet, uniting against a common enemy may overshadow this tension. Clearly, what happens in a neighborhood in Belgium affects France and what French Intelligence learns affects Germany and so on.

Although the operational pressures are severe, I was impressed by Germany’s initial response to the migrant surge and its commitment to providing long-term help. There will be roles for both legal and non-legal conflict managers at every stage in this ongoing process. Personally, this trip affirmed my decision to increase my problem-solving capacity by adding conflict management to my public policy and legal skill-set. I feel aligned with my legal brethren worldwide in ways that I have never before felt. And like them, I will protect values, grapple with complex issues, and use legal and non-legal tools to address disputes.”


Susan Warner, Cohort XVI

“Germany does have the resources to handle the large numbers of refugees coming in across its borders. It also has a public opinion problem. The refugees are supposed to be following the Dublin system, which states that applicants are the responsibility of the country in which they are fingerprinted and their application is filed. But countries like Turkey and Greece do not want them to stay and are happy to see them pass through. Some Germans are upset that they are being saddled with a disproportionate quantity of refugees. The Dublin system is not working. The citizens have concerns about long-term burdens being thrust upon them. Also working against a positive public opinion is fear, mostly fear of the unknown. The people coming in are different in many ways, including appearance and culture. In addition, the terrorist attacks on France have aggravated already existing fears that among the massive numbers of people crossing the borders are terrorists. German right-wing groups are growing and will voice their opinions on the subject.

Many are dividing the migrants into “us” and “them” categories, or maybe more accurately “not one of us”. As the divide widens, it will become more difficult to integrate the refugees into society. The class did not agree on any new solutions to solve the growing issues in Germany and the rest of the EU. If it were up to me, I would take the education and interaction route. By teaching both sides about each other’s cultures and goals, they may find enough common ground to start building relationships. The more the parties interact, the greater opportunity to form friendships. Knowing more about each other—decreasing the unknown—will help to alleviate fear.”