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Monday, June 17, 2024
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UB Student Abroad Chooses to Stay in Japan

Remains in an unaffected area

Kai Wasson, a senior anthropology major studying abroad at Japan's Konan University, will remain in the country to finish his program, despite the recent 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that wreaked havoc on the island nation and caused explosions at various nuclear reactors.

He is the only UB student currently in Japan, according to Stephen Dunnett, vice provost for international education.

Dunnett said that with the choice to stay in Japan, Wasson agreed to sign a waiver that absolves UB of liability for anything that might happen to him for the rest of his time there. Exposure to nuclear radiation remains the biggest fear, but because of the location of Konan University, Dunnett agreed to sign off on Wasson's decision.

"The region is very far from Fukushima, where the [nuclear] reactors are," said Dunnett, who spoke with Wasson as the situation progressed. "So we don't perceive that there is any danger there."

Konan University is in the city of Kobe, which is the southern Kansai region of Japan, away from the affected areas of the country. The earthquake and tsunami happened off the coast of the northern city of Sendai and the northern Fukushima prefecture.

"The Kensai region didn't feel the earthquake at all, and there was absolutely no effect from the tsunami," Wasson said in an email. "…Everyone seems to be saying that the situation is getting better. Even the radiation that has leaked is not going to last long."

Wasson said that he has largely relied on word-of-mouth in order to keep track of the situation to the north, as it is still hard for him to understand what is being said on television.

Thus far in his yearlong tenure at Konan, Wasson has been learning Japanese and taking other cultural courses through UB's study abroad program; he hopes to eventually complete a double major in Asian studies, according to James Gibson, a senior economics major and a good friend of Wasson's.

"From what I hear from people, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric (which is the company essentially responsible for the nuclear plants) is saying that the situation isn't as bad as everyone is making it out to be in other countries, specifically France and the United States," Wasson said. "But Japan is trying to calm everyone down… On the one hand Japan does not want to panic, so the government might be downplaying it… The western media might also be blowing the situation out of proportion, sensationalizing the destruction and potential threats."

Konan University has assured its students that the situation is under control and that they are safe; however, if Wasson were to decide to come home, he would not face any penalty, he said.

American universities, on the other hand, have strongly advised students to leave Japan, and many have required them to do so, according to Wasson. UB officials recommended that Wasson leave Kobe last week, before he got a chance to speak with them.

"There is a SUNY recommendation that all SUNY students should leave Japan, and we agree with that SUNY directive," Dunnett said. "However, there are these regional differences – in other words, if he had been in the north of Japan, we would have insisted that he return."





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