Anti-government protesters demonstrate in the center of Ankara June 5, 2013.
As Michigan State University student Jason Korth gazed over his porch in Izmir, Turkey, he watched hundreds of protesters mob the roads before him, vandalizing storefronts and setting the city on fire.
The construction management senior watched them chant in unison, “We stand together,” as they took to the streets to demonstrate frustration with their government.
Korth never thought his study-abroad program experience would be this real.
“I actually felt the sensation of tear gas the other night and it felt like my face was burning,” he said.
Korth is one of many students who have found themselves amid the chaos in Turkey as anti-government demonstrations continue to ripple across the country after a brutal police crackdown.
What started as a small demonstration against bulldozing a park turned into nationwide political unrest that has become a cause for concern as university administrators evaluate the safety of their students studying abroad.
Monday night protests attracted a swarm of up to 20,000 people in Taskim Square in Istanbul and about 1,000 police officers using water cannons and tear gas to contain the demonstration.
“In Turkey, American students do not appear to be any sort of a target for the protests but there is some danger that the students could be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said William Hoye, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES).
The institute had originally planned to send students on a traveling study abroad to Turkey in July but decided Tuesday to reroute the group.
Due to the potentially dangerous atmosphere surrounding the protests, New York’s Syracuse University ended its study-abroad program in Turkey one week early. Students were located at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul, near the heart of the protests.
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