URBANA - Scott Fullman planned to spend this week visiting historic sites such as the Tower of London and having a pint or two in the pubs.
?We found a good deal on a youth hostel in Hyde Park. We had a rough itinerary. We were going to get a taste of everything,? said Fullman, a sophomore at the University of Illinois.
Instead, he canceled his spring break trip to London, unpacked his suitcase and repacked it with swim trunks and T-shirts. He's now headed to the beaches of Florida.
?I'll get a tan at least,? Fullman said.
He and four fraternity brothers who were to make the trip to London canceled their plans last week after talking with worried parents when it became apparent war in Iraq was imminent.
?We figured it was better to be safe than sorry and postpone the trip to another time,? Fullman said.
But many other trips abroad planned for this spring break week were to go on as planned, in spite of the start of war in Iraq.
A number of Study Abroad tours from the UI were to travel to locations throughout the world, including the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador and the UI Concert Choir tour to Russia, said Jeremy Geller, director of the UI's Study Abroad Office.
Late last week, all but one were to go ahead as planned.
Geller said a faculty member leading a group to Japan and Korea decided last week to cancel the trip, both because of impending war with Iraq and concerns about the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that has affected people in Asia.
?It is not a call I would have made because at this time the military action is localized and there are no students who would be flying into the gulf region and no students would be flying into the Middle East,? Geller said. ?There is no reason to assume any harm would befall students traveling to other destinations.?
Ensuring the safety of students abroad is the first concern of his office, Geller said. It monitors State Department travel advisories.
The UI will be removing three students who are studying in Turkey as a result of the travel warning issued by the State Department last week. Geller said his office has been communicating with the students and their families, and it is looking for another program elsewhere for them.
?We want them to be able to complete a semester of study abroad,? he said. ?My sense is that the students are disappointed but they understand the imperative.?
Geller said a travel warning like the one issued for Turkey is a specific recommendation against Americans traveling to that country, or authorizing family members and non-essential embassy and consulate workers to leave the country.
Geller said the State Department has also renewed a worldwide travel caution, which is a more general advisory. He said U.S. travelers have been under a travel caution continuously for about two years.
The travel caution warns Americans of increased potential for anti-American violence because of military action against Iraq. It advises Americans to be aware of their surroundings, avoid places where Americans and other tourists congregate, and avoid conspicuous dress and behavior identifying them as Americans.
?We take them seriously and we distribute them to students, and we repeat for students the general information the State Department provides to Americans abroad,? he said. ?We take to heart students' concerns and parents' concerns.?
Geller said a handful of students have called his office with concerns about traveling, and one has decided against studying abroad.
And even as the United States prepared for war, applications for study abroad for the summer and fall were significantly higher this year than last, he said.
?We believe now more than ever it's important to be out there learning about the world and relationships and perspectives beyond our borders,? Geller said. ?Students seem to recognize that because they are signing up and going.?
The Alternative Spring Break program at the UI has one international trip, to Guatemala, scheduled for this week. The participants left early last Thursday morning, said Jonathon Dolle, graduate adviser for the program.
?We've talked to people at other universities and most universities sending people to South and Central America are still doing them,? he said.
The other trips are to locations in the United States. Dolle said late last week he believed all would go on as scheduled.
A few international students at the UI were planning to travel abroad the week of spring break, said Ivor Emmanuel, director of the Office of International Student Affairs.
?Some have inquired about the situation, and we sent out an e-mail saying they could expect disruptions in air travel, possibly long delays due to security,? Emmanuel said. ?There may be temporary closure of embassies and consulates. We don't know what to anticipate. All we can do is alert them that these possibilities exist and let them make the choice about whether to travel or not.?
You can reach Jodi Heckel at (217) 351-5216 or via e-mail at email@example.com.