The Office of International Programs decided to suspend all study abroad programs in Japan Monday evening, according to Director of OIP Laura Monarch.
The U.S. travel warning for Japan, urging American citizens to delay travel to the country, which was struck by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami two weeks ago, was a large factor in the university’s decision, Monarch said.
“Sadly, the earthquake, tsunami and unfolding nuclear crisis leave continuing uncertainty over the potential for strong aftershocks, transportation difficulties, power outages and radioactive fallout through the air or food supply,” Monarch wrote in an email to affected students Monday evening. The seven students studying in Tokyo for the full year had temporarily departed Japan last week.
Students said they were frustrated that their stay has been cut short, but that the university’s decision is sound.
Michael Goulet (COL ’12), who had planned to study at Sophia University in Tokyo for the spring semester, said he understands the university’s decision.
“I don’t blame Georgetown at all,” he said. “I don’t think it’s fully safe.”
But the cancellation of the semester still comes as a disappointment to Goulet.
“I have lost that opportunity now to go abroad,” he said. “I still haven’t fully processed how I feel about it.”
John Shuler (COL ’12), who was also set to study at Sophia University, said it was a challenge since he has been planning for this semester for over a year.
“It was difficult for a lot of us given that we applied in February of 2010,” he said.
Michael Carter (COL ’12), who had also planned to study at Sophia University, is missing the opportunity to meet family he has in Japan.
“Especially with the recent events, I was very intent on seeing if they were alright for myself,” he said. “There is a small part of me that would have liked to be a part of history as well, I suppose.”
The students now have to deal with the academic and financial consequences of a cancelled semester. The university is recommending summer courses so that students can still graduate on time and is helping students cover any financial costs incurred by the program suspension.
Goulet said that the university has been helpful throughout the entire process.
“Georgetown has been incredibly great about it so far,” he said. “They totally understand this has been very difficult for us.”
Georgetown has allowed students to take up to five courses at school this summer, as opposed to keeping the cap at four, and will also offer courses in Japanese, according to Goulet. The affected students’ deans have also been in touch regarding their future academic plans.
The university has offered to help make summer housing in D.C. more affordable, and help students iron out any difficulties, such as having to take out loans or needing refunds.
While most students are upset at the loss of a semester overseas, they realize how lucky they are to be out of harm’s way.
“I can only be so disappointed because I’m safe,” Goulet said. “People’s lives in Japan have been ruined.”
Shuler said that instead of dwelling on his situation, he is focusing his thoughts toward those in Japan.
“We should be directing our sadness to what happened in Japan,” he said.