U of C asks exchange students to return from Japan

The University of Calgary has requested that its students on exchange programs in Japan return home. Out of 10 undergraduate students and several graduate students in Japan at the time of the earthquake, one has returned home before the university issued the request and another plans to return within the week. According to the school, the others plan to stay or take more time to think about coming home.

“They’ve expressed to us that they feel the news we’re getting in North America is overblown, that where they are there aren’t any problems, there’s no line ups, there’s no power black outs, so they’re not experiencing any feeling of an emergency,” said director of international relations at the U of C Glynn Hunter.

“I will be staying in Japan,” said fourth-year petroleum geology exchange student Raymond Van. “The chance to do a foreign exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It would be a waste to end it prematurely knowing there’s a good chance the recent problems in Japan will subside soon.”

Van said the earthquake was devastating, but noted nothing too severe happened where he is living.

“I was deep-frying spring rolls at the time and I was wondering why they were rocking in the oil,” commented Van. “Japan’s infrastructure is amazing, so the earthquake itself was not too big of an issue. I think the possible outcomes could have been worse and returning home might not have been an option.”

The decision to request the students return to Canada was made after a meeting of a U of C emergency group the morning of March 18. The group reviewed information they had access to and looked at what other institutions were doing. The Universities of Toronto and Lethbridge requested that their exchange students return.

“Right now we can provide assistance,” said Hunter. “If they need to get a flight out of Japan, if they need to change their ticket, if they need a new ticket, that’s all doable. The longer you stay there, if things deteriorate it becomes more and more difficult to provide that kind of assistance.”

The university told students they will still support them regardless of their decisions to stay, though Hunter did comment that assistance is not entirely open ended.

“What we’re asking everybody is to keep their eyes open for news, to keep registered with the Canadian Embassy, and to make sure that they’re following what is going on,” said Hunter.

U of C students were at four partner institutions located in Tokyo, Sapporo, Kyoto and Osaka.

The Canadian government currently has a travel advisory in effect for Tokyo. All U of C students who were in Tokyo have left. The Tokyo university was on a break at the time, and the second semester of their school year will be pushed back until May.

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