UK students in heart of Paris during attacks

By Joshua Qualls

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Two students and a professor from UK were in Paris on Friday, the day of the ISIS terror attacks that took nearly 130 lives.

None of the eight Education Abroad students in France is studying in Paris, but hospitality management and tourism junior Ana Cervera, based in Chambery, France, and accounting and finance junior Alayna Mohn, based in Vallendar, Germany, both planned weekend trips to the city with friends.

“I thought it was a bad dream,” Cervera said. “There were soldiers everywhere and they were just watching, more than anything.”

Cervera arrived on Friday morning with other students from the University of Savoie.

Cervera has learned much about France’s culture since landing in the country on Aug. 28, she said. She felt the atmosphere was different after the attacks.

“(In France) they like to protest things they see as unjust, and in Paris they were told that they weren’t allowed to do that,” Cervera said. “It felt wrong.”

Mohn and a few French-speaking Canadian friends with whom she has been studying at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management took a bus to Paris and arrived Thursday morning.

One of her classmate’s parents live in the city’s 17th arrondissement, so the group went there for dinner just before the attacks. The area is about six kilometers away from the Bataclan, the concert venue where the most deaths took place during the attacks.

Mohn spent time in an area closer to the Bataclan when she visited the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris and Musee du Louvre on Thursday, but on Friday she stayed closer to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe near where her group was staying.

“We were all sitting around the table when the (student) who lived there said, ‘Oh, there’s been an attack,’ but we didn’t … necessarily know how bad it was,” said Mohn, who does not speak French.

Her classmate’s sister eventually walked away from the table as they finished eating and turned on the news.

“(The people in the room) were sometimes like, ‘We don’t even want to tell you what’s happening, it’s so bad,’” Mohn said.

Mohn struggled to understand what was going on as everyone spoke hastily in French, but she could read their body language and tell something terrible had happened.

“You could just feel it in the room how scared they were,” she said.

Both Cervera and Mohn made it back to their schools on Sunday. French President Francois Hollande declared three days of national mourning and increased security throughout the country on Saturday, and Cervera was encouraged to wear black when she returned to school on Monday.

UK Public Relations has not yet shared the name of the professor who was in Paris at the time of the attacks, but all UK students and faculty in France reported to the UK International Center that they were safe by Saturday afternoon.