This thought has been haunting me for a while, so I’m temporarily ditching my French essay to write this: how different would my study abroad experience have been, if I’d gone abroad to France this year?

Even last May, months after Charlie Hebdo, I experienced heightened airport security as I was leaving Nice. Before I could even get my tickets, a security man interrogated me for approximately five minutes: “Why did you come to France?” “Where were you when you packed your suitcase?” “Have you let anyone use your laptop recently?” and so on. Once I’d answered all the questions, he stuck a sticker on the back of my passport.

Usually, I don’t have any trouble writing–it’s typically really easy for me to express my thoughts via the written word–but I don’t even know how to say what I’m trying to say, or what I’m trying to say, really. When 9/11 happened, I was in second grade, way too young to understand the repercussions or aftermath of that attack. What I’m trying to get at, maybe, is that I can’t even begin to imagine what it would’ve been like to be studying abroad in the wake of a national tragedy, much less what the French or anyone with deeper connections to France must be feeling right now.

And I’m not trying to be Western-centric here–I know there are things going on in other parts of the world, such as Beirut, Baghdad, and Syria, and then earthquakes in Japan and Mexico. And it sucks that the Syrian refugee crisis never even got the amount of media coverage that Paris is getting right now, because the Third World never gets precedence over Western First World countries in the press–so I don’t know. I guess this is a post about tragedy in general, and how humanity can be absolutely terrible sometimes–but how humanity can also be wonderful at times, when people and countries express solidarity.