Japan’s quake shakes students

Junior William Liew was working out at a gym in Japan when he first felt the earthquake’s tremors on March 11. Liew was one of five UVM students studying abroad in Japan when an earthquake struck the coast, said Kim Howard, said Office of International Education (OIE). “The experience was incredibly terrifying,” Liew said. “I needed to go into survivor mode to figure out how to find electricity and water.” The magnitude 9.0 earthquake was the largest in Japanese history and caused a tsunami to hit cities and farmland in the northern part of the country, according to The New York Times. During the earthquake, trash littered the floor around the gym’s front desk and a pole jutted through the locker room ceiling, Liew said. “Most people didn’t know what had happened,” he said. “They just thought it was a big earthquake.” Liew said he realized it was serious after the tremors lasted for 15 minutes. The OIE office immediately contacted the students in Japan to check in after learning about the natural disaster, Howard said. “We sent an email saying that given the situation that the nuclear reactor was not resolving, we recommended that students consider coming home,” she said. Of the seven UVM students who were scheduled to study in Japan during the spring term, one student returned home from Japan and one student decided not to leave for Japan, Howard said. The OIE has been really supportive by not forcing students to return to UVM, Liew said. Students from other schools were required to return to their home universities, but UVM was open to the option of students staying in Japan, he said. Liew has been studying in Japan for the last eight months through a bilateral program at Aoyama University. He is starting his second semester in one week, he said. “I’m trying to keep as informed as possible about what is going on in Japan, and I’m just keeping an optimistic point of view,” Liew said.