So, the world is horrible; we know this. Americans look out at the world (on occasion) and see—what? Like, twelve countries that don’t seem like they’d be too bad to live in and maybe another couple-dozen that might be fun to visit. The rest of Planet Earth all seems to be A) really messed up and needy, and B) probably our fault somehow.
This is all really depressing, but it isn’t acutely dangerous. It isn’t as if Americans can’t go and visit mountain gorillas in Virunga or try surfing in Vietnam. Your luggage is almost certainly going to be stolen at the airport in Singapore, but nobody is going to shoot you when you go to the red-light district to buy it back from the Triad gang that’s fencing it. In fact, apart from food poisoning, most of the world is pretty safe for big, loud, monoglot Americans.
Except for these places. Everybody in these places hates you, and none of them believe you when you claim to be a Canadian.
The Islamic State of Whatever
When bored partygoers are playing a word-association game and your name comes up, the terms “murder,” “mass rape,” and “child slavery” are bad omens. Such is the gigantic PR disaster that made big headlines in 2014 as the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” then changed its name to “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).” Before that, it was “al Qaeda (Iraq),” or “Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn,” which was a big improvement over the group’s old name of “Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad.” All that can get confusing. To save space, let’s just call them “Dudes Interpreting Contrived Koranic Suras (DICKS)”.
The DICKS are easily the most over-the-top, theatrically evil lunatics in the modern Middle East, which is quite a feat when you think about it. They dress in black, wave a black flag with scary-looking writing on it, wear black ski masks that they somehow got hold of in Iraq, and routinely execute something like 100 percent of the Americans whose getaway cars run out of gas during their flight to Baghdad.
At the time of this writing, a reasonable-sized stretch of miserable, stinking desert stretching from eastern Syria to just outside of Baghdad and up into the Northern hills just short of Kurdish sniper range is unofficially the DICKS Caliphate. Being American inside this caliphate is a capital offense, though the gunmen in the pickup trucks are so busy killing just about everyone else, so maybe they’ve just gotten carried away. The good news is that the only legitimate reason for going anywhere near the new caliphate is to pilot drone strikes, so your junior year abroad is unlikely to be affected by their antics unless you’re in one of those hard-core ROTC programs.