Posts Tagged 'Earthquake'

National Emergency Can Strengthen a Study Abroad Experience

You’re sound asleep in your dorm room, hotel,  apartment, or  home stay.  Suddenly you’re jolted awake. What time is it? No, you didn’t oversleep-  It’s only three o’clock in the morning. What just happened?  Little do you know a massive earthquake has just struck in a nearby city. When you study abroad you take every precaution against getting your ID stolen; you pray for a safe flight; and you hope your housing doesn’t fall through.  It’s not natural to consider you might be caught in an actual emergency. In the wee hours of Monday morning, students near L’Aquila, Italy, a mountainous city northeast of Rome, felt one of the country’s strongest earthquakes. For some it was their first earthquake. Congratulations. Over the next few days, months, even years, students will discover the impact of the earthquake through their cultural interactions.  It’s a once in a lifetime experience to witness a culture, city, or country, rebuild itself after a disaster.  How do you, a student or traveler, prepare for something of this magnitude?

According to The New York Times the earthquake in central Italy has killed approximately 150 people, injured another 1,500, and left 40,000 to 50,000 homeless.  Fortunately, most American students are studying abroad in parts of northern Italy or Rome… and none of them were hurt.  As Italy mourns, U.S. Study Abroad Offices are contacting their overseas program supervisors to account for each student’s whereabouts. Places like Temple University, Georgetown University, and Northern Illinois quickly posted updates for nervous family members and friends about the condition of students in Rome – and other parts of Italy. Georgetown University is even assessing the future of its own Summer study abroad program in L’Aquila, the town most devastated by the earthquake. Natural disasters are rare – but they do happen. And students are not forgotten once they skip the country.  Is it possible to prepare for a natural disaster before going abroad?  You bet!

Being Prepared Gives You More Time to Relax and Enjoy the Ride

Being Prepared Gives You More Time to Relax and Enjoy the Ride

The easiest way to get ahead of the game is to get a cell phone.  In this case, study abroad students were far enough away from the earthquake that cell phone lines were not tied up.  Your family and friends will breath easier once they know you’re safe.  If you have access to internet- email, Twitter, and Facebook are the best places to start. Once you post an update, everyone and their mother will know your whereabouts. Within seconds the world knew an earthquake struck Italy.  Before you leave home, make sure you have all the emergency contact information for your home institution or program provider. Western Oregon University is one of many universities that posts emergency information online.  You may never need to use it, but again, better safe than sorry.

The Students Abroad U.S. Department of State Preparedness site provides students and travelers alike with emergency numbers for any country, evacuation procedures,  assistance for victims of crime, or help if you’re arrested. If your situation becomes unsafe and you have to leave you’ll be assisted by your program supervisors as well as the U.S. embassy and consulates. So let them do their jobs and chill out.

By no means should the rare chance of a natural disaster put a damper on your trip. There’s really nothing you can do.  Instead of panicking- learn from it.  See how the country and its citizens cope.  See what you can do – without getting yourself into more trouble.  In some cases, you might even be able to help out those who have been injured, but don’t do anything without consulting your program advisor.  Overall, have fun and let nature take its course!

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