Does the Media Influence Students’ Yearnings to Travel?

Bombings in Ukraine, missiles in North Korea, ISIS kidnappings, civil wars in Africa and the death of Kayla Mueller are some of the numerous reports about wars and other attacks that have the potential to make students weary about traveling abroad.

Ashley Phillis conducted a survey from February 27, 2015- March 26, 2015 on Survey Monkey. This survey focused on how familiar Northern Arizona University (NAU) students are with international news and how it has affected their travel plans and/or desires. The survey link was given on NAU Facebook groups: Class of 2015, Class of 2016, Class of 2017 and Class of 2018, totaling around 9,884 different students. 100 students, (about 1.01% of students with a link) responded. Only 0.39% of NAU’s enrollment of 25,590 students participated in the survey.

The survey focused on how the media and the Travel Advisories list given by The Office of U.S. Passports and International Travel, affected students’ desire to travel. Questions included how familiar the student was of international news, if the media ever affected their travel plans, if they knew what countries were on the U.S. Travel Advisory, if they ever wanted to travel to a country on that list and why or why not these stories affect their desire to travel.

Out of 100 NAU students that completed the survey, 77 percent of respondents said that they were at least somewhat familiar with international news. 63 percent stated that the media has hindered their desire to travel to certain countries.

One question, ‘why or why not these stories affect their desire to travel’, was an open-ended question. The two most common responses to why they did not want to travel abroad were they are fearful for their safety and ISIS makes them want to stay in the states. Out of 66 responses, 29 students (43.94%) reported they were fearful for their safety. ISIS made 5 students (7.58%) want to stay in the country.

Different types of attacks effect the desire to travel to a specific country in different ways.

“It (negative stories) doesn’t affect my desire to travel abroad, but I’m not going to fly in to Ukraine or Palestine or the Middle East,” Krystal Landerth, a sophomore communication student said. “With France that was so unpredictable. It’s like deciding not to go to New York because there was an attack. It’s different when a country is at war and the war is there.”

Landerth wanted to travel to Africa for charity work to help build orphanages.

“The particular parts of Africa that are impoverished and really need the help are also very dangerous because of the warlords that come and capture women and children and subject them to the military force.” Stories like this make her worried for her safety and halts her plans.

Andrew Sarracino, NAU Study abroad adviser for Canada, the Middle East and Africa says, “We don’t have a lot of students going to that region to begin with, but with particular news stories and media coverage, students have a lot more questions. They see the media, they think of negativity and what they hear the media say about something in the Middle East, they apply to all of the Middle East. It makes them hesitant to pick that program in that area.”

During the spring 2015 semester, one student is studying abroad in Africa and one student is studying abroad the Middle East.

Hannah Roberts, a freshman anthropology major, is planning to study abroad in Turkey. Roberts chose Turkey because she use to live their when she went to middle school.

“I haven’t heard any negative stories about Turkey, but I have heard rumors that Turkey will break out in a war within the next couple of years,” said Roberts.

Although Roberts has no concerns, she said other adults and her friends are trying to persuade her not to go there.

“It’s about as dangerous as anywhere else,” said Roberts.

She does not want these negative thoughts to damper her plans of personal growth.

“I hope to learn more about the Turkish culture as an individual rather than with my family, how to travel abroad overseas by myself and experience new ways of living.”

The U.S. Travel Advisory put out by The Office of U.S. Passports and International Travel can sometimes put a damper on some plans to travel to certain countries.

NAU masters student Martha Preciado says she is ignoring travel advisories and plans to study in Mexico anyway.

“The (travel advisory) list really hasn’t held me up from traveling, especially that country, regardless of the whole cartels and mass shootings. I’m familiar with the area and I feel okay.”

As of May 20, 2014, North Korea has been on the travel advisory list. Preciado experienced changes to desires to travel to both North and South Korea.

“When it comes to North Korea, I’m really curious.” However, with missiles and what Preciado considers “an unstable ruler” of North Korea, it has changed her desire to visit South Korea. Worried for her safety, Preciado puts off her travel plans to South Korea.

Although there are a lot of stories, it is important to judge the sources of the stories.

“I don’t think it (going abroad) is that big of a deal, with the negative publicity. There’s a lot of negative things but not all of it is true. Some of it is exaggerated,” said Roberts.

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