The University of California canceled its 2010-11 Education Abroad Programs in Japan in response to the flood of natural and nuclear disasters plaguing the country.
The University pulled the plug on the program on March 16, following the release of a United States State Dept. travel advisory for Americans in the country. Before their year-long stay was cut short, 80 UC students were enrolled in EAP Japan and UCEAP estimates that six were UCSB students. The University has also terminated its upcoming Spring Quarter abroad program in Kyoto.
Mary McMahon, UCEAP regional director for Asia and Africa, said about half of the EAP students were not in Japan when the earthquake, aftershocks and tsunami hit, as it occurred during the EAP program’s scheduled vacation time.
According to Jean-Xavier Guinard, UCEAP associate vice provost and executive director, the UC’s travel-assistance provider arranged departures for the 49 students stationed in Japan. The other 31 students in the program were told not to return from their Spring Break destinations.
“This decision was not taken lightly and it is based on the need to ensure your safety, our first and foremost concern,” Guinard said in a letter to UCEAP Japan students. “UCEAP staff in Tokyo and California will be working with you to facilitate your return to California and to arrange for your reintegration to your UC campus.”
Although the University had planned to fly students out of the country by April 19, UCEAP was unable to confirm as of press time whether all 80 students and 32 employees in Japan have returned to the U.S.
Ines DeRomana, EAP safety/security and health affairs director, said the University evaluated multiple factors before making the decison to cancel its programs.
“[The programs were canceled] because the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning,” DeRomana said. “The [UC] Office of the President is also not supporting any UC-sponsored activities in Japan. I’m not sure if that will change soon. The other reason is that our students would be without insurance coverage and we could not risk that.”
UC is one of numerous colleges in the nation, including California State University, Boston University, George Washington University and the University of Notre Dame, to cancel its study abroad programs in Japan. This is the second EAP program the University terminated in the last two months. The EAP program in Egypt was suspended on Feb. 1, when political turmoil prompted the U.S. State Dept. to release a travel advisory for the country.
Japan was dealt numerous blows to its infrastructure, economy and environment after being struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11. The quake — the strongest recorded in the nation’s history — set off a cycle of destruction including a 33-foot tsunami that prompted power outages and shut off numerous nuclear reactor cooling systems. This ultimately caused multiple hydrogen explosions and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The tsunami and radiation contamination also threaten areas throughout the Pacific Coast.
According to recent estimates, the disasters have left more than 10,000 people dead, about 17,000 missing, thousands homeless and millions without basic amenities.