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CU is contacting the students studying abroad and is awaiting more information following a massive earthquake.
After a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand Tuesday afternoon, CU has contacted students currently studying at the University of Canterbury located in Christchurch. Currently there are four students studying abroad in New Zealand.
Colin Sorensen, a sophomore ITS administration and English double-major, is one of the students currently studying abroad in New Zealand. Sorensen said that when the earthquake hit he was in Wellington.
“I was in Wellington, on the southern tip of the North Island, at my house—planning a trip to the South Island for Thursday with friends,” he said.
Larry Bell, director of international education at CU, said there are some students in Wellington, Christchurch and another city in New Zealand.
“We have been in touch with all of our students, they are all safe,” Bell said. “We have also been in touch with their parents.”
Bell is not only contacting students and parents but also the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
“They [The University of Canterbury] are making a decision today about when they will reopen and how they will manage if they reopen or not,” he said.
Sorensen said the University did not contact him directly after the earthquake.
“AustraLearn was sure to contact all of its students in New Zealand immediately,” Sorensen said. “I believe they forwarded on all responses to the respective universities. The University of Colorado Office of International Education, however, did not directly contact me.”
Depending on the decision made today, Bell said CU will choose what is best for the students in the affected area.
“We may place them in other programs in New Zealand, we may offer them to go to Australia, whatever allows them to finish their semester,” Bell said.
He said recent events in Egypt also caused students to be moved into other study abroad programs.
“We arranged an equivocal program,” he said. “Insurance covers most of it while we [the school] cover some of it.”
Not only does the university have students in New Zealand, but also there is one student studying abroad here at CU who is from New Zealand, Bell said.
Bell said he and others have contacted the student and let him know about the services here on campus such as the victim assistance and psychological services. There are also Libyan students at CU and they have also been contacted following recent political unrest.
Sorensen said he is hoping to volunteer in Christchurch as soon as he can.
“I am hoping to get down to Christchurch as soon as volunteers are allowed to come and the airport becomes more accessible,” Sorensen said. “Already the students at Canterbury University in Christchurch have taken to the streets with shovels and wheelbarrows, and I hope to do the same. That may be as late as May, but I am hoping for earlier.”
Bell stressed that there are events that happen, both political and environmental, that are unexpected.
“It isn’t about being in another country, it is about being prepared in another country; that is the important thing,” Bell said.
Sorensen said the earthquake affected his trip to the South Island and added unexpected stress.
“A lot of people were worried about me,” Sorensen said. “My program provider [AustraLearn] demanded all its students reply with their whereabouts ASAP. Generally, it added a certain level of stress that I was not expecting while in New Zealand. It did affect my trip to the South Island. The ferry on the way there was packed with New Zealand military personnel and their trucks, hummers, and equipment in the decks below. On the way back, we were delayed three hours because of the amount of cargo being loaded and unloaded from the ship as a result of the incident in Christchurch. Some roads were blocked, and security felt slightly higher than before.”
Catherine Bogart, a 18-year-old freshman pre-journalism and political science double-major, said she is thinking about studying abroad in New Zealand and Australia but isn’t concerned about political or environmental disasters.
“I feel that you shouldn’t not go to a place you want to just because of uncertainty, I think you would always regret it,” Bogart said. “I think it is just really bad timing.”
Ethan Zhao, a 19-year-old sophomore finance major, said he looks at studying abroad in ways that will only help him in his future.
“I look at it [studying abroad] in terms of what you can get out of the program,” Zhao said. “Long-term benefits for personal development, in terms of seeing the world.”
The process of applying for studying abroad has several meetings but the three main workshops focus on certain issues to prepare each student.
Bell said Study Abroad 101 informs the students of the services CU offers abroad. Next is a general meeting for students who want to study abroad and then the site-specific meetings.
“In that setting [site-specific meeting] we give them information on the variety of things that might come up in travel,” Bell said.
These include how to keep your passport safe while traveling, registering your travel plan with the state department, learning about different types of cell phones that would be useful abroad and many additional issues and questions, he said.
“We care about you more than just students while you are here,” Bell said.
Sorensen said he views the earthquake as horrible and prays for the people who were affected by it.
“It’s an absolute tragedy, and reading about it from a local level has twice the impact of hearing about it in international news,” Sorensen said. “All New Zealand flags are being flown at half-mast. It makes me grateful I’m mostly unaffected and safe—and I continue to pray for those less fortunate.”