In the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last Friday, University officials recently confirmed the safety of all 80 University of California students studying abroad on the island nation.
The students will have the option to study in other Japanese cities, transfer to another country or return to the United States. The UC Education Abroad Program is currently working with partner institutions in Japan to determine the future of its programs.
However, while all the students are accounted for, the university is continuing efforts to locate the 32 UC employees stationed in the country.
“Campus risk managers have reached out to the majority of the approximately 32 faculty, staff, researchers and graduate students in Japan,” a UC Office of the President press release said. “All are reported to be safe.”
UC campuses scrambled to contact their travelers last Friday after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan’s northeast coast near Honshu, it’s most populous island. The quake is the strongest recorded in the nation’s history.
The tremor triggered further devastation in the form of a 33-foot tsunami that swept over cities along the country’s northern end and threatened areas throughout the Pacific Coast. Its impact also caused power failures that shut off numerous nuclear reactor cooling systems, ultimately causing two distinct hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. According to news reports, a third reactor has also lost its cooling ability.
The disasters have left more than 10,000 people dead, thousands homeless and millions without basic amenities.
Although 80 students were registered with EAP, Mary McMahon, UC EAP regional director for Asia and Africa, said only half of them were in the country during the earthquake, aftershocks and tsunami.
“Conveniently — well, as convenient as a natural disaster can be, that is — this happened over spring break so our Fall [Semester] students had returned to UC campuses and our Spring [Semester] students had not yet arrived,” McMahon said. “The only students in the country were those studying abroad for the year and most of them were in other countries.”
UC EAP sends students to seven universities throughout Japan.
McMahon said EAP officials are most concerned about the stability of the program at Sendai’s Oku University. She said it may not be feasible to maintain the safety of students enrolled in that university’s year-long program.
“We’re looking into whether students that are in areas that may have been affected by either the earthquakes or tsunami may be relocated,” McMahon said.
The UC is working with its 10 partner universities in Japan to match students to different schools according to their areas of concentration.
The number of UCSB students enrolled in the program was unavailable as of press time.
It’s a frightning situation, and the focus on doom and gloom in the press makes it even more so, but I’m certain the Japanese will bounce back from this tragedy without missing a step.