CSUN students in Japan will return home

Juana Esquivel

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The five CSUN students studying in Japan in the exchange program during the 8.9 earthquake that struck over a week ago will be returning to campus within the next week.

In an email sent to all CSU presidents Tuesday, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed stated all CSU programs in Japan have been ordered closed.

“Although some of our students are not in areas directly affected by the earthquake or the tsunami that followed, the damage to infrastructure and the resulting potential for shortages and other logistical problems are cause for concern,” stated the email.

In the email, Reed added that another cause for concern is the continuing uncertainty and increasing danger caused by damaged to nuclear facilities.

“Leaving our students in this situation is not a risk I am willing to take,” the memo read. “My first concern is always for our student’s health and safety.”

Dr. Harry Hellenbrand, CSUN provost and vice president of academic affairs said Reed issued the order with two main intentions.

“One, to make sure the students are not in harms way and secondly, to make sure that we did not impose an unintentional burden on Japanese people themselves, because our students have the ability to leave the country and lessen the burden on the country to deal with its problems.”

The more people who are there, the more there are for the Japanese government to deal with right now, Hellenbrand said.

About 45 out of 100  CSU system and campus program students were in Japan at the time of the earthquake are affected by the policy. Those affected, but not in Japan include those preparing for trips or whose academic terms in Japan would have started in April, said Eric Fallis, media relations specialist for the CSU in an email message.

All CSU students in the country have been accounted for by either system or campus staff, Fallis added.

Dr. Martha Lopez, assistant director for international programs said in a telephone interview that all CSUN students in Japan were contacted the morning of March 11 through their emergency phone numbers and emails and they have all been accounted for.

Students are shaken but OK, she added.

Hellenbrand said that as students return, some issues will arise.

Those issues include the completion of any coursework that students were doing, the continuity of financial aid and the cost of the return.

Hellenbrand said students will be allowed to finish the semester at CSUN, but whether or not they will actually finish the semester and how that will be done is unknown.

“We don’t know if they are in the middle of taking classes now or if they’re in between semesters. We just don’t know any of the circumstances and we’ll work to get them the credit they need,” Hellenbrand said. “It’s hard to assert what the cost will be if we don’t know what the issues are.”

Lopez said there are five CSUN students studying in Japan in the exchange program while there are five Japanese exchange and 194 international students studying at CSUN.

Hellenbrand said almost all of the CSUN students in Japan have flights back to the United States within the next week or so.

Lopez said international students are those students who attend CSUN or another university to get a degree on a student visa. Exchange students are those who attend on a short term program. These students attend for a semester or a year and receive their degree from their home campus.

Hellenbrand said there have been other times when CSU students had to return home early from study abroad programs like when conflict broke out in the Middle East.