The Main Stream

Aug 2, 2013 9:10 PM by Samantha Ptashkin

UA study abroad student weighs in on global travel alert

TUCSON- The United States issued a global travel alert Friday, citing an al-Qaida threat that also caused the State Department to close 21 embassies and consulates this weekend in the Muslim world.

The State Department warned American citizens of the potential for terrorism particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, with a possible attack occurring or coming from the Arabian Peninsula.

"You're constantly hearing these warnings about an imminent threat," says UA Student Mark Paquette.

Paquette is going to be a senior at the U-of-A this year. He recently returned from a six month study abroad session in Egypt. He says often times the threats never materialize and he felt safe while traveling across Egypt, but he says it's always better to be cautious. " I think for a lot of people it's not a good time to go, if you don't know your surroundings, it's going to be a lot more dangerous," Paquette says.

The threat isn't just impacting travelers.

"We're actually hiring an instructor of Arabic language for our program here in the fall," says Dr. Leila Hudson of the UA's Middle Eastern & North African Studies Department. "He needs to be here by the time classes start and he needs to process his papers at the U.S. embassy in Cairo."

Dr. Hudson says it's difficult to say whether or not travelers should just avoid heading to the region all together. But she told News 4 Tucson over the phone, if travelers decide to make the trip, they need to familiarize themselves with their destination. If you are relying on a guide from someone in the United States, it's not a good idea to go.

"I have a friend who is going to the middle east with his parents soon and I think they're still going, but we all just have to be careful," says Flight Attendant Vivian Gundestrup.

The travel alert is in effect from now until August 31.

The State Department recommends any U.S. citizen with plans to travel abroad register their plans with the department's State Traveler Enrollment Program.

Travelers can also get the latest information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, from other countries, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

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