Intro: You're listening to the Beyond the States podcast with Jenn Viemont. Did you know that you can go to Europe and get your entire degree taught in English for less than one year of tuition at many American schools? Jenn will take you on a deep dive into the many benefits and options around English-taught higher education in Europe, helping to make the possibility less foreign.
Jenn Viemont: Hi, I'm Jenn Viemont. Thanks for listening today. I sometimes get questions about whether or not it's safe to live and study in Europe. So today we're going to be talking about fear and safety. I feel like I know a lot about fear not just because I'm a licensed clinical social worker, and worked in mental health for quite some time, but also because I have a few irrational fears myself. So one of these is about driving on bridges. And it's not just bridges over water, but also those you know, those steep ramps that looked like like the incline of a roller coaster that lead to overpasses. The fear also extends to driving in the mountains, especially those highways that look over a steep drop. I don't know why I had this fear. It decreases when I'm not the driver when I'm the passenger. But my fear response is physical and real. I mean, we're talking stomach pains, sweaty palms, but I can't let this prevent me from opportunities. I love Asheville, to get to Asheville, and to get home from Asheville, I have to drive on those highways with the steep inclines or steep drops and the runaway truck signs which also elicit a fear response in me, I still have the fear response, but I need to get to Asheville. There's great food there. So I just use some good old self talk and I get through it. My other phobia is one that maybe some of you can relate to, which is sharks. This one I know the origins for I was exposed to the Jaws movies at much too young age. Thanks, dad. While I favor a pool to an ocean, I can't let this prevent me from opportunities either. Have I been on a banana boat despite that horrible banana boat seen in one of the movies? Yeah. And I couldn't pass up the chance to surf in Hawaii either though I did imagine a little family of sharks that was tailing me. And I even did one of those shark cage dives though. In all honesty, I was so sick that I was barely cognizant. So these are fears that I know aren't rational. Yes, they're, you know, I could fly off a bridge. Yes, a shark could attack me. But I recognize that the risk is low so I could carry on despite my fear response. We have other things that are actually scary in our society right now to school shootings. For instance. I have to tell you, other countries, people in other countries are amazed at how desensitized we are to this. I've talked to people in Europe who were horrified that lockdown drills are as much of a part of our kids lives even in elementary schools as fire drills were to us in school shootings are still going on folks. I recently saw a statistic from 2016 that there have been 50 mass murders or attempted mass murders at school since Columbine, which was 18 years ago. And 270 shootings of any kind on school or college campus. In 2015, the number of shootings per week on a school or college campus was one per week. I mean, that's a lot more than than shark attacks. And we we have become more desensitized to this the most recent one that happened in Washington I didn't even know about until a few days later. And I read two newspapers a day, it's no longer front page news. And we still send our kids to school every day. Then there's also sexual assault on college campuses, among undergraduate students, 23% of females and 5% of males experience rape or sexual assault while they're in college. And we still send our kids to college, hopefully male or female, we're giving them a lot of education about this before they go, but we still send them on. I think they're the things we recognize that we don't have control over. And so our sort of day to day fear response to them is decreased. So of course, as I said, what we're talking about today is the perception of safety, and how that relates to studying in Europe. Due to the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, I get a lot of questions about whether it's safe or not to send our kids there. The first thing I always say is would you send your kids to Boston, or Richmond or Orlando, or Chattanooga, or San Bernardino, California. These are just some of the places in the US where terrorist attacks have happened in the last 10 years.
There's something about it though, when it happens in a place that you're not familiar with. It makes it more scary. So for instance, when the horrible attack in Brussels happened the spring of 2016. My son Sam and I were in Germany, Belgium and Germany are two different countries. And people knew we were in Germany, but we're still checking on us. I'm worried about our safety. We weren't even in Belgium. Do you worry about friends and family in Chicago when there's a horrible violent act in New York? No. At the same time A student we were working with was in fact, in Brussels during the bombing with his dad, they were visiting the school that he hoped to go to. They were safe. They had a hard time getting him just logistically, but they were totally safe. I was still sure, though, that being there through this experience would change his parents mind, if not his own about studying in Europe. Nope. They recognize that this could happen anywhere. And they were comfortable with how the authorities in Belgium handled it. I do wonder, though, if they would have decided differently if they hadn't been there at the time to experience sort of the aftermath and how it's handled. So today, I want to challenge your perceptions around this topic. My own brother, Ansel Mullins, is joining us today. Ansel and I grew up in Chicago, and then he went to Tulane University. A few years after graduating from college, he moved to Istanbul, Turkey. And a few years later, his fiancee, now his wife, joined him. They lived in Turkey for just under 15 years. Their kids, Jimmy and Nellie, were born there and recently moved to Lisbon, Portugal. So Ansel, thanks so much for joining us today.
Ansel Mullins: My pleasure.
Jenn Viemont: I thought you'd bring a really interesting firsthand perspective to the table, when you first moved to assemble, what 15 years ago, a lot of people in our family couldn't understand why you would leave the country, what made you decide to move to assemble?
Ansel Mullins: I studied abroad for a semester in college. And I guess at that point, I got bit by the travel bug, I realized that there was a lot more to the world than I had access to in the United States. So from that point forward, I really wanted to gain more international experience. I after university, you know, I was trying to make that happen. And it just wasn't happening. I was I was seeing career options and paths that didn't really suit me. And I was just constantly thinking about how to get overseas. Istanbul was on a list of places that I thought I could be happy. And I was fascinated with, I traveled to there and had great experiences. But it was, it was really just, you know, like spinning a globe and sticking your finger on it. To stop it. Istanbul was one of many places that I think could have satisfied. My eagerness to get more international experience.
Jenn Viemont: It's interesting, because we often don't think about you think when you move to a place or when you go study in a place, you're getting the travel experience of living in that country. But Europe just makes it so easy to explore the whole continent in ways that we don't have here, you know, we can easily go to Mexico or Canada, or you know, the Caribbean. But outside of that in the US, we're so sort of isolated from exploration. One thing I know that this opportunity presented you with, and I noticed, because you're my brother was that, you know, we had very little idea what you were doing, you know, those of us you know, our parents, you know, we what's he doing? I don't really know, I think he's you know, flipping apartments, I have no idea. So you didn't have sort of these pressures of staying inside the box, if you will. So what career path did you take once you got there and decided to stay?
Ansel Mullins: Well, because my goal was really just to live there. And just by being there, I was satisfying my biggest ambition. I didn't really care about what I was doing to pay my rent. So I did whatever it was, I could do. So I did freelance writing, that was a big part of what I wanted to be doing. But of course, that's not even going to pay a lunch tab. So I was working on apartments, I learned Turkish and I realized that that was a tool I could use in lots of different environments, being the guy who knows the city, and the language offers you a unique position in a place like Istanbul to to hustle on lots of different fronts.
Jenn Viemont: So then for so you had all these odd jobs, you're doing stuff with apartments on or you did a radio show about old soul music, then why where did it lead you
Ansel Mullins: Why Istanbul was always the fascination and living in in that foreign environment and making it less foreign was the obsession but I was searching for how I could write about it. And I wanted to describe this place in as a way to force me to explore it more. And so I needed to I needed to find the angle and I wasn't comfortable with politics or some of the other or history or archaeology or what have you. But food was something I felt really comfortable with it. You know, hunting down little local specialties and obscure spots was always a pastime growing up in Chicago, and it was just naturally the way that I explored the city. So at the time there wasn't much being written about that sort of street level culinary culture in Istanbul, even though it's a thriving thing, it wasn't something that seemed worthy of mention. So I decided that this is how I could, you know, focus my attention on the city. And so food became sort of a lens that I would see the whole city through and try to describe, you know, much more abstract things like migration or, or you know, cultural diversity or, or a little clashes and rubs that gentrification things that happen in cities, but always through the lens of food. So that was a very satisfying moment for me, because I could do all the things I wanted to do, but describe them in a way that I knew how to describe them. So it started as a website. And that quickly became a book, which kind of turned our writing and the narrative that we had been building through articles into a day long experience, where we would take small groups of visitors to Istanbul on our great day of eating, you know, visiting 10 or 12 places, you know, strange rooftops workshops, little mom and pop restaurants and meeting the people who keep this thing going.
Jenn Viemont: You know, I have to say, I'm not a tour person, you will never find me on a tour. I'm not even a historical museum person. But I would say that the food tour we did in Istanbul is one of my favorite travel experiences ever. And not only because I'm also obsessed with food, and I ate better that day than I've just about ever eaten. But also because the history was presented in such an accessible and interesting way. That you know, it was myself and my husband and our kids were younger at that age, and we were all interested and fascinated. The other thing I really appreciated about it is that when I travel, I do like going to places that have, you know, the more authentic food or markets and I often don't know what to order or how to order. And it took that element away from, from the experience our we have friends who are digital nomads, and they have done a number of the tours. And Sam, my son has done the one in Lisbon as well. And it's just I can't say enough about this experience. What cities are you in now.
Ansel Mullins: It's a long list. We're in a dozen cities around the world and five, I believe are in Europe. Most recently, Naples, Italy, which is a great place for this kind of thing. Lisbon as well. We're developing more tours in European cities. Athens has been a mainstay Barcelona, and of course, Istanbul. But we're also in in Asia and South America and in Queens, New York as well. That's one of our newest ones.
Jenn Viemont: So Ansel and his family, his wife, fiancee at the time, joined him in Istanbul shortly after he moved there. And they have two children, my niece and nephew Jimmy and Nellie, who, by the way, just let me brag for a minute. They were both born and assembled. And Jimmy speaks fluent Turkish. Greek, because he went to a Greek preschool English, and now they just recently moved to Lisbon. So he's learning Portuguese, too. So he is six and will know four languages, which is just incredible to me. But anyway, they moved to Lisbon. And I always assumed because it was, what a year, a year and a half ago that you moved. That's right. Yeah. Last summer. I assumed that it was because of safety reasons. You know, we had been hearing about what was going on in Istanbul. And I always assumed that that was just the reason that you moved, recently learned that that's not the case. But tell me about did you feel unsafe in Istanbul,
Ansel Mullins: I never felt unsafe in Istanbul I, on the contrary, I always felt incredibly safe. There's something wonderful about that city that exists probably in lots of other cities where your life is public, you're expected to take part in lots and lots of different relationships from the guy selling bread on the corner to you know, the lady who sweeps up your street, your neighbors, everyone you need, you're expected to know everyone and to recognize them and they recognize you whether you like it or not. And that comes with a sense of, for me at least a sense of security. I never felt lonely ever, or, or unsafe walking around the city. And so I yeah, when when I got that sense of security. It made me feel like I could do anything.
Jenn Viemont: You know, when we were talking. Recently. You said something I thought about a whole lot since our conversation, which is when you said that um In this temple, you had this sense of personal safety that you've never had been living in the US. And I know that you growing up, again, I know this because I'm your sister, but you know, you did have experiences with violence. Uh, when you lived in New Orleans going to Tulane, I know that you were mugged at gunpoint, you had a friend who was killed in a carjacking in Chicago, these are experiences that you had as an upper middle class kid. So it's really interesting to me that your contrast to Istanbul, you know, in terms of your personal safety was so powerful.
Ansel Mullins: Yeah, I mean, you have, I think, if you grew up in a city, and you know, you, you have a certain level of street smarts, right, you're, you're, you're always aware of your surroundings. And you know that things can happen to you. I think that that makes you edit your activities a lot. It just works its way into everything that you do. This idea that, you know, you might get attacked, it's it's, it's not as if you're paranoid, so much as you're aware that that danger is out there. And it was such a relief when I realized that it's not as if you put your guard down so much as you go through enough situations where you're feeling more welcomed than then threatened. And, and it's a great relief, it really feels good. And I found that in Istanbul, I don't think you can get that very easily in American cities, there's something lurking.
Jenn Viemont: I was reading a book by a friend of yours. I've mentioned it on other podcast episodes, because I'm just so amazed by it, it's by Suzy Hansen notes in a foreign land. And one thing she said about the neighborhoods in Istanbul, is that it's like an organism that you have to keep alive. And everyone's feeding, loving and protecting it, and that she wanted to contribute to it. And I know when we visited you in Istanbul, I mentioned this to you like the way the neighborhood felt almost felt like, you know, when you'd watch Sesame Street in the 70s. And you know, there are people sitting out on the stoop and they all know each other, and the kids are kind of, you know, running around, I can remember our mom visiting you and being like, oh, my gosh, and Jimmy's running a block ahead of them on the street. And you guys wouldn't be worried at all, backing up, students get this experience in Europe, because students live in neighborhoods, even the student residences are usually in neighborhoods. And so they get to have this benefit of the neighborhood life. Can you tell me a little bit about your neighborhood feel in Istanbul?
Ansel Mullins: In Istanbul, it was, you know, a 24 hour party, in the sense that there is always someone out on the street, you have a lot of small businesses there. So the same people work in the same shops every single day, the same faces, you see them, there's just a constant presence of people and families out at all hours. And like Suzy said, you, you do want to contribute to it, you find yourself, you know, dropping your grocery bags to help a lady up the stairs, it's just what you do. Because you're fully engaged at all times. You don't think Oh, I wonder if I should help them out. You know, you see two guys fighting on the street and you go with the waiters from the cafe to break them up because they're having a fight close to your street and you're engaged, you're in there. And that's a really great feeling. And once you've lived in a city for long enough, I think you do sort of internalize the place and you and you feel like you are a member of the society. So you want to take care of it. You're no longer just a foreign visitor but an active ingredient in this organism that's living in the neighborhood so you want to protect it you want to do something about it.
Jenn Viemont: Did you feel as an American living in this this Turkish neighborhood Did you ever feel any sort of anti American sentiments?
Ansel Mullins: I never felt anti-American political statements were targeting me. You certainly hear anti American kind of someone. Someone wants to vent about the president or the or the military or whatever is going on. But it never it never feels like it's target. It's pointed at the American and meant to make me feel uncomfortable. So no, I never felt it. Some people might visit a foreign city and see, you know, some banner hanging in front of a building that says down with Trump or whatever and feel like that. against them. But I think that would be a miscalculation. So no, I never felt it. And I never I never got it in an aggressive way ever.
Jenn Viemont: I think a lot of countries outside of the US understand that politics and the citizens can be very separate. I mean, I spoke to people in France, administrators at school, who understood what was going on, because they had LePen, at the same time and lapins view certainly didn't reflect on their own. Certainly in Istanbul, you have politicians who don't necessarily represent the citizens themselves. I think people get that on a level that we can't, or that maybe we're just starting to understand as Americans who live in the US.
Ansel Mullins: Yeah, absolutely, um, that I, there's a separation that seems to exist between government rhetoric, and what are the way that people communicate and what they associate you with. So I think you could probably go anywhere, and experience the same hospitality that I did in Istanbul, despite political climates, whatever they may be.
Jenn Viemont: So the neighborhood safety is great. And that's I actually love the story that Maddie your wife has told about when you guys were gone for a day, and your neighbor across the street hollered at you that you left the kitchen light on, while you were gone. And I love that, because it shows that people were looking out for you, you know, so fine, it was just your kitchen light was on. But if something were going on, they would know they're looking out for the people in their neighborhood. And that's awesome, but and huge benefit. But there's day to day safety, and there are bombings. And when you were living in Istanbul, there were some suicide bombings going on, and there was an increase in them. So how were you able to feel safe during that?
Ansel Mullins: I think that I felt safe, because it was such a departure from everyday life. So I was able to isolate it. It wasn't as if the guy selling my bread on the corner, or the people that were that were members of the community that I was welcomed into. We're doing anything violent, or anything different. It was as if, when when you know, I was close to the bombings that happened, it was really as if lightning struck. And when you're just looking at the damage of that, and you do see that community instinct kick in and moments like that. I remember seeing there was a bomb on the English consulate in Istanbul. And everybody's running away. And then in because it was, you know, huge, and, and this guy ran up to me frantically asking me where it happened. And I said is that way and he runs off towards where it happened, thinking he's going to help people out at that moment. And, and I don't think that's unique to Istanbul. But it certainly speaks about the way people carry themselves on the street every day that they are active, and they are. They are trying to contribute something positive to the people lives around them.
Jenn Viemont: It's still hard to understand, especially as a parent, and you know, we have a lot of parents listening. So you had you know, after a bombing, the next day, you're walking with Jimmy to get you know, breakfast, and you're not worried, you know that that something might happen when you're walking the streets?
Ansel Mullins: No, I never felt that. I like I was saying how you kind of have that sort of street smarts about you. If you grew up in an American city, I guess after a number of these incidents happen, you do start to, to it changes the way that you behave outdoors a little bit. I mean, you do think about the route you're taking or you think maybe I'll keep away from the metro or are you heeding these warnings that you get from the consulate by email? I mean, you definitely act a different way. It's not as if you, you think, Oh, that happened and it'll never happen again. You know, you have to be smart about these things. But yeah, I mean, it definitely takes it definitely changes you. But it doesn't or at least for me and for the people that that I know in Istanbul It doesn't make you paranoid that you're now in a in a dangerous place. I think it reminds you that these kinds of things can happen anywhere. Somebody traveled a long distance in order to to make this violent act and it's it seems as if it could have happened anywhere on that road between point A and point B but he happened to make his destination there or maybe he was headed somewhere else and and did it close to your home. For whatever reason, it just it, it feels very, very random. And because it never seemed to be targeted at anything and specific aside from certain government installations or, or protests or rallies, you feel outside of it. Like if you were to be affected by it or close to it, it would be as random as any as being struck by lightning.
Jenn Viemont: You know, and as you're talking about this, I'm thinking I started the episode before he joined us talking about some of the issues we have here in the States. And we also have random school shootings, you know, that we, I never worry, when my kids go to school, that today's the day that a school shooters gonna go into their school, because it's a random, it's an isolated thing that happens way too much, you know, at one time is way too much. But it doesn't affect me on a daily basis in terms of my fear around it. And it sounds like that might be sort of similar to your experience, you recognize that these you've experienced sort of in a city? Why, just like I experienced on a countrywide, the school shootings you've experienced on a city level, these horrible effects, but it doesn't affect you day to day. Does that make sense?
Ansel Mullins: It does, it does. And I think that that's true, I'm probably part of the way that you deal with that. Error, the way that I did was, I would say, you know, what, I'll take, I'll accept the risk of, of a random suicide bombing. In a place where I feel so safe and protected on a daily level in a much more important way. So I think that's a real comforting place to be your nope, no place is ever going to be perfect. But where, where things got a little dodgy with some of that violence in the past and Istanbul, the city really made up for it in the sense of community that it provided me on a daily basis.
Jenn Viemont: I know, this isn't unique to assemble, I talked to a lot of American students who have a similar frame of reference that you do, you know, from their upbringing, who are living in different cities around Europe, from cities in Italy, to the Netherlands, to Estonia, to to Finland. And the sense of safety is really something I'm universally hearing. And it's something I experienced as a as a woman traveling alone to these cities. And I'm not staying in hotels, I'm staying in residential neighborhoods and Airbnb s, I have not felt unsafe in any of the cities I've been to. And it's just I think it's something that we can't really understand this new way of thinking the sense of safety, unless we experience it as a resident, which is what students get. So you've given us a lot to think about. And I really love these intangible benefits to studying abroad. Beyond the savings, of course, are the tangible benefit that we haven't talked about yet that you know a lot about, which is the food in Europe, which is one of my reasons that I love to travel there. So let's end on a lighter note. You have tours, Barcelona, Lisbon assemble a Naples.
Ansel Mullins: For Europe, as Athens, in Greece,
Jenn Viemont: Athens in Greece. Okay, so can you tell me about some great street food for students in each of those places that they might not know about?
Ansel Mullins: Yeah, well, let's start with Istanbul, which has a great street food scene late at night. The P love carts come out. And this is my favorite street food in Istanbul. It's so simple. And, and homey, this is a this is the rice with chickpeas and shredded chicken. It's very simple. And the carts come out into the neighborhoods, and on busy streets and you can eat a dinner like that. For less than $1. That's a great thing. And this is this is food that's actually made in someone's home, most of the time and so the the husband and wife are making the food and then the husband comes out and sells it. And those people become a part of the community that they sell into, which is a great feeling. You see that? That lamp from the street cart from across the intersection, you say, oh, okay, he's out. And so that's someone you encounter. Barcelona, Barcelona has got an incredible culinary culture. Not as much street food I'd say what what's most exciting there is are the markets the it's a city blessed with something like 40 or 50 municipal markets and these are huge, beautiful structures where you can go in and get up close and personal with the produce the see food and the daily life of shoppers and residents of the city. It's a great place to learn earn about charcuterie and cheese and wine, kava all the great things up in Catalonia.
Jenn Viemont: So tell me we have a lot of parents who are traveling either to visit their students who are now studying in Europe or doing college trips. And I was on your website the other day, and I saw your offering. And maybe it's not a new service. I just haven't been on your website recently. You temporary Is that Yeah. What can you tell us about that a little bit.
Ansel Mullins: Each cinerary is -- it's a dining itinerary. Basically, it's a three day tailor made suggestion list. Let's say it, it reads like a magazine. It's laid out in a really nice way so that you get seasonal features of that city. But we also work with the client on where they're staying, what they're interested in. What do they have any dietary restrictions or particular fetishes that we can help them find while they're in the city. So it's really for you at a specific time, and tries to be tailored to your interests, or we tried to predict what your interests will be based on questions that we asked you in the lead up.
Jenn Viemont: That's so that's like our best fit list. We need a more clever name. I think for our best fit list we offer our members, they they let us know what they want to study what cities they like, what their interests are, what their qualifications are. And we give them a short list of programs we think they should look at, but we do not have a clever name like you do.
Ansel Mullins: Well, we can work on that.
Jenn Viemont: Yeah, thanks. I appreciate that. Thanks for joining us. Today we're going to have links to the information about your culinary walks and your eating honorary and, and culinary backstreets as a whole in our show notes. And thanks for joining us, Ansel.
Ansel Mullins: Thanks for having me, Jenn.
Jenn Viemont: I think we have two things to discuss as we wrap up here. The first is what Ansel said about his general sense of not being safe when he lived in the US. I was trying to figure out if this is something that applies to a whole lot of us or is more confined to his experience in certain geographic areas. And first, I thought it didn't apply to a lot of us. If you were to ask me if I feel safe in my community, I would absolutely say yes. And I think most others in my town would say the same. Then I was thinking about how many choices parents in this community. And many suburban areas with low crime rates make that indicate that maybe we do in fact feel unsafe, at least at a subconscious level. I remember when I went to Japan, I was amazed by the number of really young kids like six years old, who were taking public transportation to and from school without adult supervision. My neighborhood is less than a half a mile to the elementary school, there are sidewalks. And there's even an adult crossing guarded the only busy street between the neighborhood and the school. Even though there are droves of kids each day, you know, the time that school is starting and ending, very few are walking without their parents even up to fifth grade. Not only is that choice being made by the parents due to their own sense of safety, but it sends a message to the kids that they aren't safe either. Then there's this irrational belief that Europe would not be safe due to the recent terrorist attacks there. What I think we have to embrace is that our kids are not safer here than they are there. Not only are they not saved from terrorist attacks here in the US, but in Europe, they're less likely to have the date rate drug put in their drink, they're less likely to become a victim to the opioid crisis, they're less likely to encounter a school shooter or really have any experience that involves gun violence is that's quite rare throughout most of Europe. It's hard to accept when if you're not rational, it's hard to accept that there are so many safety issues in our own country. It's also hard to accept when there are fewer and fewer places in the world where people are totally safe when it pertains to terrorism. The sense of safety that I've heard about from so many American students around Europe is one of those intangible benefits to studying in Europe. That really makes me happy. Thanks so much for joining me today. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And if you enjoy the podcast, I'd really appreciate it if you would rate us on Stitcher iTunes. Have a great day.