By Pauline Theeuws
Only two days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, international students were expected to be back in class and fully functional. But their minds were racing.
Senior French students Pauline Bressy, a finance major, and Marine Billa, an international business major, were studying in Moore Library on evening of Nov. 13 when Billa received a text from a friend living in Italy asking her if she had seen what had happened in Paris.
Their first reaction was to look on the Internet and check Facebook. They soon found out about the terrorist attacks that struck the City of Light.
What started as a joyful Friday evening in Paris quickly shifted into the country’s worst nightmare when ISIS attacked the Stade de France, a sports stadium, the Bataclan Theater as well as bars and restaurants, creating a horrifying chaos that killed at least 128 people and injured more than 300. Terrorists blew themselves up at multiple locations in France and, on the previous day, in Lebanon.
“I was quite confused because it said that there were six attacks simultaneously, and I didn’t know if there would be more,” Billa said.
The students immediately tried to reach out to their families and friends to make sure they were safe, but did not get immediate answers.
“I felt awful,” Bressy said. “I was scared for my family over there. I tried to reach out to my sister, but she wasn’t answering at the beginning.”
Aure Rakotondrainibe, also a senior from France and international business major, celebrated her 25th birthday on Friday, and it was after hanging up the phone with her mother that she got the horrifying news from a friend.
Rakotondrainibe immediately called her mother back to inform her. “I told her not to go to bed but to watch the news and see what was going on,” she said.
The time difference and the inaccessibility of live French coverage on U.S. cable made it even harder for the students to be able to follow up with the events.
All international students were expected in class on Nov. 16 even though their minds were somewhere else as they couldn’t stop checking the news every few seconds.
Bressy, Billa and Rakotondrainibe agreed on feeling “left alone” and lacking overall support from college peers and professors as huge gatherings were being organized worldwide.
French students felt surprise and anger when finding that some professors showed little interest in the attacks and did not reach out to them to check in.
“I was afraid to come back to class after what had happened and felt shocked that professors didn’t even talk about the attack,” said Rakotondrainibe.
Rider is well known for its international students and study abroad programs, which intensified students’ frustration because of the lack of people who felt concerned about the attacks.
Billa, Bressy and Rakotondrainibe are only three French students out of many at Rider who were impacted by Friday’s terrorist attacks.
At time of crisis, they said, being so far away from home worsened the pain from being unable to show support, not only to the victims and their families, but also to the country.
On Nov. 16, the Center for International Education provided a place where international students could share their fears, but most of all where they would feel supported during this difficult time.
French students felt that their emotions were better acknowledged during the gathering with other international students who either shared or better understood what they were going through.
The Tau Kappa Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority also organized a candlelight vigil on Nov. 17 in front of the Moore library to mourn the losses endured by France and Lebanon.
The vigil joined those held by nations around the world, as many continue to stand behind those affected by the attacks.