American Colleges Support Japanese Counterparts

With the recent earthquake and tsunami causing widespread catastrophe in Japan, American colleges and universities have come out in full show of support for the country and its counterparts in higher education.

Indeed, plenty of schools have offered support for Japan, holding fundraisers and the like. Dartmouth College has taken advantage of its unique quarter system and has accepted students from Boston University and Brown College who have been displaced from study abroad programs at Japanese universities. The school has a history of assistance in these situations: last year it accepted students from Haiti and Italy after the two countries found themselves in similar situations to Japan, with earthquakes destroying universities and displacing students. The University of Maine has established a similar program, offering potential students a streamlined application process, counseling, and discounted tuition.

Students at Illinois College, spurred by their school’s 24-year relationship with Ritsumeikan University, have dedicated themselves to building and selling paper cranes to raise funds. While Ritsumeikan, located in Kyoto, was not seriously affected by the earthquake, the money collected at Illinois College will go to the International Red Cross for much needed assistance in areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

While support from American institutions is certainly helpful for efforts to rebuild Japan, much remains in disarray. Over 30 university students have been confirmed dead across the country, with that number expected to grow in the coming weeks. Additionally, many schools are beginning their terms weeks late and some have been forced to relocate, like Kitasato University and its 600 students. Even schools that were structurally unaffected by the disaster must still postpone reopening due to the chaos surrounding them. Moreover, fears of radiation have led students in Fukushima Prefecture to cancel their enrollments. Fukushima is home to Japan’s damaged nuclear reactor. An official at the University of Aizu stated that “It is absolutely safe here, but they wouldn’t listen to us. They seemed to have jumped to the conclusion that all of Fukushima was dangerous.” Despite claims from officials that radiation levels are safe, some would-be students remain wary.

–Adam I. W. Schwartzman