Study abroad in Japan cancelled

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March 18, 2011

3:11 AM

As of Thursday afternoon, all of the College of William and Mary’s study abroad programs scheduled to go to Japan between now and July have been cancelled.

Five College students were planning on studying abroad at Keio University in Tokyo or Akita International University in Akita, Japan. The students were scheduled to leave at the end of the month and would return home in July.

The programs were cancelled due to a travel warning by the state department issued Thursday.

“As a rule, we cannot support a program that is in a country under a travel warning,” Sylvia Mittendorf, Director of Global Education, said. “We are monitoring the situation very carefully, especially the fluid situation of the nuclear reactors.”

At the time of the tsunami, five students and recent alumni from the College were living in Japan.

Kentaro Uzuki ’11 was enjoying an afternoon with his cousin at a local cafe in Tokyo when the tsunami struck. The two immediately left the cafe without drinking anything. Multiple phone calls home would not go through.

Uzuki, who graduated from the College last semester, moved to back home to Tokyo a month after graduation in order to decide on a career path.

“The moment we got back home [after the earthquake], we saw things scattered around on the floor. It was so shocking to see a tsunami sweeping everything — houses, cars, people in Tohoku region on TV,” Uzuki said in an email.

Uzuki is currently relocating to Kyoto toavoid the radioactivity resulting from the damage in Fukushima.

“I stay at home and try not to go outside as much as possible lately. Some of my friends escaped from the region affected by the earthquake, even Tokyo,” Uzuki said, “The nuclear plant is a bolt from the blue. I didn’t expect anything so serious as this.”

Even though much of the radioactivity is affecting Tokyo, Kentaro plans on moving back to the region as soon as possible.

“My family is die-hard Tokyoites,” Uzuki said. “They’ll stay here ‘til death. This is just a disaster.”

In order to help aid Japanese families like the Uzukis, a dozen College students, faculty and staff have launched a website to help raise money for relief and recovery efforts in Japan.

According to Hiroshi Kitamura, associate professor of history and co-director of the East Asian studies program, the committee developed immediately after the disaster hit northern Japan on March 11.

“We all have a feeling of devastation, but also a determination to help Japan,” Kitamura said in a press release.

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