Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japan earthquake delays study abroad

The OU Education Abroad Office postponed students’ study abroad plans to Japan last week as a response to the earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear radiation leaks, according to university officials.The Japanese spring semester begins in April, but OU students planning on studying abroad have had their plans postponed to later in the year because of the crisis.As a result of concerns related to the initial earthquake and the continuing crisis, we have pulled students back from Japan for the spring semester,OU Education Abroad Director Jack Hobson said.We had about eight students planning on studying abroad.It was tragic what happened, but we were lucky to have a swift and safe departure of students.The office is in the process of trying to find other options for the students based on their specific situation, Hobson said.We are in the process of sorting out their needs,Hobson said.Some have already studied abroad and this would be the second time. Some haven’t yet. Some can only do a summer program. We are trying to figure everything out for them.

Hobson said the disaster will not affect any future study abroad relations with the country.Norman’s sister city in Japan, Seika, is located in the southwestern region of the country, was not near the earthquake and should not be heavily affected, Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.I have sent messages to the mayor of Seika, Japan,Rosenthal said.It’s on the south and western part of the country, so it is far removed from the immediate earthquake. The whole country is obviously affected though.Though she has not heard back from Seika yet, Rosenthal said she understands it is not a high priority for the city’s mayor right now.

The Norman City Council will vote on a resolution this evening expressing sympathy for the country and asking residents to keep the country in their thoughts and prayers, Rosenthal said.Currently, the OU Japanese Student Association is part of a statewide group called the Oklahoma Earthquake Support Group that is creating a relief program in Oklahoma, association president Russell Kabir said.The Japanese clubs at OU the Japanese Student Association, the OU Japanese Club, the Japanese Animation and Manga Society and the Arashi Taiko drummers are planning fundraising events, Kabir said.We found out about the earthquake right after our Japan culture night,Kabir said.We were all so high off of that and then saw news online and statuses about the earthquake. It was a weird feeling.Plans are not concrete yet, but Kabir said he plans to meet with UOSA President Franz Zenteno this week to create an event similar to those for Haiti last spring, he said.We are thinking about doing something in the South Oval with drummers and dancers to get attention and do more fundraising, Kabir said.A lot of things are in the idea stage right now and will be planned soon.

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