Monday, March 28, 2011

Japanese students share thier study abroad experiences

UW sophomore Mike Thielk was studying abroad in Sendai, Japan on Friday, March 11 when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the northeast coast of the nation. He was one of 24 UW students in Japan when the earthquake hit.I thought I was going to die,Thielk wrote in an email.I was in a research lab in an older building on a mountain during the earthquake. The lab had a lot of damage.The earthquake was the most powerful on record to hit Japan. Its reverberations triggered a tsunami that washed over the nation and caused extensive damage along the eastern coast of the country. Japan’s National Police Agency has stated that the official death toll has exceeded 10,000 people, and over 16,000 more have been reported missing.

Sendai, the city in which Thielk was studying, was the nearest major city to the quake. The surrounding area has suffered the most extensive damage. Thielk’s dorm was without power and water until Saturday night. The water they did receive that night ran out Sunday.I am looking for a way to leave Sendai for a while,Thielk wrote.UW is advising me to leave, but they have even less information than I do.Brent Barker, UW travel security and information manager, said that the UW made contact with 17 of the 24 students within three days after the earthquake hit. The remaining students have since been accounted for and are unharmed.

While we don’t have any immediate concerns, we still want to close the loop and make sure [the students] are fine,Barker said.We are trying [to reach the students] by all means possible: phoning, emails and doing searches.Barker said that Thielk is the only student he feels should leave the area. He said it is likely that the UW will let most of the students continue their studies in Japan since there is not significant damage in other areas of the nation, such as Tokyo.UW professors Robert and Saadia Pekkanen and professor Jody Bourgeois were also in Japan at the time of the earthquake. All three have confirmed that they are safe.

Robert Pekkanen, the chair of the Japan Studies Program, and Saudi Pekkanen, Job and Gertrud Tamaki professor, are both back in the United States. Bourgeois is a professor of earth and space sciences and is scheduled to return to the United States on Thursday.In Japan for research purposes, Bourgeios was located at the Sapporo Institute of Seismology and Volcanology at Hokkaido University at the time of the earthquake.I got motion sickness,wrote Bourgeois in an email.I felt like my building was a boat, and the earth had become the sea.Bourgeois was on the island of Hokkaido in Japan to study the relationships between earthquakes and tsunamis. The island suffered minimal damage during the earthquake and had little devastation. Bourgeois is hoping to learn from the disaster, but right now, her main concern is for the well-being of the Japanese people.Students can also get a lot of exposure while studying in such universities and different course Mathematics,International Agricultural Sciences and Bioinformatics.

This event is right up my research alley,she wrote.I was not afraid, just awestruck. The motion was more rolling than shaking, and it was moderate rattling windows but nothing falling over. I was very surprised that the motion kept going, so after a while, I looked at my watch to time it.Three UW graduate students were also in Japan during the earthquake, attending a civil-engineering conference to study earthquake engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. All three students are now back in the United States.

Po-Chien Hsiao, one of the UW graduate engineering students, was more fortunate than Thielk in terms of the earthquake. Hsiao said he was on a bus in Tokyo during the earthquake and didn’t realize an earthquake had struck until he reached his hotel. He said that he woke up numerous times during the night because of aftershocks.Keith Palmer, another UW graduate student and structural engineer focusing specifically on how to reinforce buildings for earthquakes, was in Sapporo, Japan, during the earthquake.The earthquake] added some more motivation to what I am studying,Palmer said.It reinforced that I chose the right field. It’s a pretty important field, and we still have a lot of work to do.Since the earthquake, Thielk said he had not seen many relief efforts in Sendai. Despite the situation, he wrote that the people have not panicked.The Japanese have been very calm and collected despite being without power or water for two days,he said of conditions after the quake.Barker said that the UW’s main concern is Thielk’s safety, which is why they want him to leave Sendai. The UW will determine what the other students in Japan should do on a case-by-case basis.

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