Earthquake rattles UVM students abroad in Chile

It’s a Saturday morning. You just woke up, made breakfast, and maybe turned on some cartoons. Everything is normal, except that on another side of the world an entire country is crashing to the ground.Six UVM students were in Chile for study abroad programs when a magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck the country’s coast on Feb. 27, killing 700 people and injuring many more.One of the students, however, said he was also rattled by UVM’s response.“UVM has done nothing to ensure my safety,” sophomore HixonSpangenberg wrote in an email on March 5.He also said that he has seen no relief efforts coming from the University.”UVM has offered no help,” he said.International Education counselor Linda Damon said she feels that UVM has indeed done its part in ensuring the safety of students abroad.”By 10 o’clock that morning, we had accounted for everyone,” Damon said. “We have an emergency procedure that goes into effect when there’s a natural disaster — it’s basically a phone tree that confirms that everyone is okay and sends a message out to critical people here on campus.”Spangenberg said the experience was terrifying.”The 8.8 quake struck at 3:34 a.m. early Saturday morning — like most Chileans, I was still awake,” Spangenberg said.”I was sitting on my bed, chatting on Facebook when I heard this low rumble and this slight tremble,” he said. “Within 5 to 10 seconds this tremble and rumble became a violent shake.”Spangenberg said he had never experienced an earthquake before and wasn’t sure what was happening. His host brother  pulled him into the corridor while everything crumbled around him, he said.”We were thrown about like toys, everything on the walls were falling on us,” he said. “The creaking, ripping and rumbling of the building was terrifying.”Now that the earthquake has passed, the question remains whether more can be done by the University to ensure the safety of students who are currently  studying abroad in Chile and assist with relief efforts during natural disasters.Damon said she is unsure of any relief efforts planned by the University.Spangenberg said that people he  knows have  donated through the Red Cross.”My family and I have donated food, clothes and cookies to the Chilean Red Cross, and so have most of our neighbors,” he said.For now she said she encourages abroad students to stay inside and keep safe instead of volunteering.”The acts of kindness after this quake further reinforce [my] opinion that Chilean people are accepting, welcoming and loving.” Spangenberg said. “Everyone here is just so kind.”