When Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted last week, it produced enough volcanic ash to disrupt Europe’s air traffic — and millions of passengers’ travel plans, including those of some Penn students and faculty members.
Upon hearing the news about the ash cloud, Penn’s Office of International Programs immediately began contacting European partner institutions where students were known to be studying, Director of Risk Management Erika Gross said. “We’ve heard from our students at our partner institutions — most are back on to their individual sites,” she said. Penn has compiled a timetable of when students were able to go back to where they were studying.
College junior Eric Merron was scheduled to return to his study abroad program in Cambridge when he received a 4 a.m. notification on April 19 that his flight from Philadelphia that day had been canceled.
The earliest he will be able to return is April 26, according to United Airlines. “For a week, it’s not too bad,” said Merron, as long as his return does not get pushed back again.
United wasn’t very helpful, Merron added. When his flight was first canceled, he was notified via e-mail, but couldn’t find any further information on United’s website.
But although his plans have been disrupted, Merron said his professors at Cambridge are “pretty flexible” about missed class and schoolwork.
The time off is like an “extended vacation,” Merron said, adding that many professors are allowing students to e-mail their work or complete it upon returning to Cambridge.
Still, he said the volcano’s timing is “the worst,” and several of Merron’s friends are stuck all over Europe.
College junior Courtney Bannerot, who is studying abroad in Spain, was traveling in Germany at the time of the volcano eruption. Instead of flying or taking a train, she and some friends decided to rent a car and drive 18 hours back to Barcelona because they were uncertain when they could find another flight, she wrote in an e-mail.
Although they were “definitely frustrated” by the air-traffic problem, it “all worked out,” she wrote.
The delays in air traffic and the limited transportation are more of an “inconvenience and a hassle” than a major emergency, Gross said. If the situation became more dire — for example, if a student needed a particular medication and wasn’t able to return to their dorm to get it — the OIP would “be there to support them.”
“We’ve just been making sure we knew where people were and that they were safe,” she added.
Penn Cinema Studies and English professor Peter Decherney, who was supposed to be in Los Angeles accepting an award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last week, was forced to remain in London. He eventually participated in the award luncheon via Skype — which “actually worked very well,” he wrote in an e-mail.
“I felt like I was there, and I didn’t even have jet-lag,” he said.Comments powered by Disqus
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