USF Students Leaving Japan


USF Asst. Professor Diane C. Roman of the Dept. of Geology discusses the Japan earthquake. Video credit: Jason Cherres/USF News. 


By Vickie Chachere

USF News



USF Asks Six Students in Japan Study Abroad Program to Return to the U.S.


TAMPA, Fla. (March 17, 2011) – Six University of South Florida students in an education abroad program in Japan are returning to the United States following a travel warning from the U.S. State Department.


The evacuation of students from a program in Hirakata, in central Japan, was announced by USF President Judy Genshaft Thursday at a university trustees meeting. Travel arrangements are now underway for the students and details on their return to campus are not immediately available.


None of USF’s students have been in danger since Friday’s earthquake and tsunami struck northeast Japan – some 500 miles away from their location - and the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.


Karen Holbrook, USF’s Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Global Affairs, said USF leadership made its decision to bring the students back to the United States as a precaution given the State Department’s warning. Numerous other American universities also are evacuating students.

“The University of South Florida has been closely monitoring the situation in Japan and although our students have not been in harm’s way, the decision has been made to bring them home,” Holbrook said.

“Following the U.S. State Department warning, the evacuation is the most prudent and sensible course of action and adheres to USF’s longstanding principle that nothing is more important than our students’ safety. Our students are disappointed to be leaving Japan and we are making every effort possible to allow them to continue their Japanese language studies once they return to campus.”




A USF student studying abroad in Japan shares her observations as the country struggles to recover from the earthquake and tsunami.


TAMPA, Fla. (March 15, 2011) – Six students from the University of South Florida are on a semester-long study program in central Japan, witnessing first-hand the country’s reaction and recovery from the devastation caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.


The students were far from the northern area hit hard by the disaster, and were quickly located by program coordinators with USF’s Education Abroad office, which has emergency protocols in place to deal with disasters.


One student, Joelle Abbott, a USF psychology major, has sent emails to USF News, sharing some thoughts on what is happening in Japan. The posts, in reverse chronology, will be updated as Abbott files more reports.


Tuesday, March 15, 12:41 p.m.:


“At the moment, the situation in my area has been the same - safe and sound with a very slight tremor (that we barely notice) every now and again. We continue everyday as we have before: class, homework, hanging out, etc. Today, it was sunny and warm and I went to the City Hall area and saw Japanese locals were going about their day as usual. High school students were hanging out in the park. People were having a coffee and chatting. It is difficult to comment first hand on the disaster that is happening to the north other than what we view on the Japanese news.
 “Some countries are asking their students to return home but no one wants to leave. Especially because our town is geographically safe and because it is probable that the earthquakes will stop in a few weeks and that we are pretty far from the radiation. We are more concerned about the north. When we watch the news it is so comforting to see families reunited but hard to see the rising death toll.

“There was a 6.2 level aftershock just a bit ago in the Tokyo area. No damage was done as far as we can tell. The news reporters said that there is no worry about a bigger earthquake or a tsunami in those areas. Transportation anywhere around the northern areas is down for the time being.

“As for the power plants, the radiation is high but the warnings are only for northern Japan. Some areas are being evacuated and others have warned the locals to stay indoors.

“As for us in the Kansai region, for most of the areas in this region the tremors are barely noticeable. Also, we are in the clear when it come to radiation. I have attached two maps. One of the affected areas and one of the regions of Japan. The yellow area called "Tohoku" is where all of this is happening. The dark blue (purple) area called "Kansai" is where I am located.

“I will do my best to keep USF updated. My Japanese skills are limited but I will talk to my Japanese friends to get a sense of what they are feeling.”


Tuesday, March 15, 6:21 a.m.:

“Some students are worried but the majority of us aren't too distracted. We're focused on finishing our semester and enjoying the Kansai area. I don't think anyone wants to leave. Everything is normal in our area and we are geographically safe. Even the Japanese people here continue everyday as normal.

“As for the power plants. Our town is far from the power plants and Japan is doing well to keep tabs on how close you have to be to be affected. Anyway the wind blows, we are probably really safe thanks to the distance.

“Once again, we can not predict the future. Anything can happen, but for the time being we are in the green zone meaning there are no warnings for our area. =)

“Please keep Japan in your thoughts and prayers!”


March 14, 9:02 p.m.:


“I just wanted to correct one bit. When I say we continue everyday normally, I mean we take local trains and buses. We have been advised to avoid the national railways system and any travel outside of our region.”

March 14, 8:59 p.m.:


“The death toll in the northern region just keeps rising. It is extremely disheartening. Fortunately, circumstances do not seem to change in our area. Last I checked, we are in the green No Warning zone so we continue every day normally (i.e going to class, taking the buses or trains, etc). However, Spring Break starts after March 18th and a lot of people have canceled their Tokyo plans. Some people are not sure what to do or to think. I have heard some various comments on how unbelievable it is. It's hard for some to wrap their minds around how close and yet so very far we are from the devastation.

“Right now, the biggest thing for us is to assure our families and friends that we are okay. We can not predict the future, but we are pretty sure that our region will continue to be safe even if we feel a tremor or two.

“ I have heard there is also a worry about the nuclear plants in the north. I have been told not to worry about radiation!

“As for Japan in general, they are doing the best they can and they are so thankful that other countries are doing their best to help. I recently watched Japanese troops and first aid from our region set out on the highway towards the Tokyo area to help. The Japanese are a strong people.
I am so thankful for everyone's concern! We will be safe!”


Saturday, March 12:


“The USF students in Japan are in what is called the Kansai region. We are all alive and well and quite safe for the time being. In fact, most of us did not even feel the slight tremors that hit our particular town yesterday. We are all concerned with what is happening and our prayers go out to those who felt the effects in the northern area of Japan.”


Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.

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