Following one of the worst natural disasters in Japan’s history, Penn Abroad is asking students who have not begun their semester abroad in the country to return home.
Wednesday night, Wharton sophomore Rachel Bleustein, a Daily Pennsylvanian staff photographer, was alerted by Penn Abroad director Barbara Gorkin to travel back to the United States.
Bleustein, who was scheduled to study in Tokyo from the end of March until July, wrote in an e-mail that she is “really upset.”
She is scheduled to leave Japan on March 22, although Penn has offered to pay for a flight for her to return home earlier.
Bleustein was working in Nagano — about 200 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter — when the disaster hit and was planning to remain in Japan even after disaster.
“I guess I just need to think that at least I’m safe,” she wrote in an e-mail.
According to Gorkin, there are currently four Penn undergraduates on Penn Abroad programs. Two are studying in Kyoto and one in Tokyo.
All but one of the students and faculty who were on Penn spring break trips in Japan have returned safely to the United States.
While the remaining law student is scheduled to arrive later this week, the University is still finalizing its policies toward students currently studying abroad in Japan.
“The nuclear situation is a big concern of the University’s right now,” said Executive Director of Risk Management Ben Evans, who has been monitoring the situation for Penn.
International SOS — a travel security provider — and Global Activities Registry, a database of contact information for traveling members of the University, were “key players” in locating and contacting students and faculty in Japan, Evans said.
The Global Activities Registry was launched last September and provided Penn faculty and students in Japan with real-time updates on the local situation.
On Tuesday, representatives from the Student Intervention Services and the Critical Incident Stress Management team hosted two information sessions — open to the entire Penn community — to offer support to those seeking help in light of the tragedies in Japan.
The underlying message of the session was “we are here for you,” said Sharon Smith, director of SIS.
“There are students out there who we don’t know that may need help. It’s the unknown that we need to find out,” Smith said, urging community members to alert SIS and CISM of roommates, friends and neighbors who may be distressed.
The university-wide response teams hold information sessions after any distressing situation that affects the campus, Smith said.
College junior Mao Kawakami, an exchange student from Japan, attended the information session and appreciated the efforts taken by the University.
Though she has received personal messages offering support, “it was nice to see faces to know who to contact and not just receive e-mails,” she said.
The Japan Student Association is setting up the Penn Japan Relief Fund. The club has set up a PayPal account through their website.
“We thought it would be better to consolidate monetary efforts through the Penn Japan Relief Fund, instead of having individual people donating,” said JSA co-president and College junior Reina Moriyama.
Donations have reached about $46 million in the first four days following the disaster, in contrast to the $108 and $150 million raised for Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake respectively in the same time period, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
JSA hopes to change this through setting donation boxes on Locust Walk and across campus, selling t-shirts and printing large posters depicting the tragedies to promote awareness, Pan-Asian American Community House director June Chu said.
Other groups on campus — including Penn Taiwanese Society, Penn Red Cross and Asian Pacific Student Coalition have agreed to collaborate with JSA in fundraising efforts.
PTS and JSA have decided that 15% of their profits in the remainder of the semester will go towards Japan.
JSA is also planning a fundraiser event for March 24 that will include performing arts groups and speakers.Comments powered by Disqus
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