When study abroad disaster strikes

Three students gave a presentation about their study abroad experiences of the recent earthquakes in Japan and Christchurch, New Zealand. The presentation took place Nov. 3 in Jonasson Hall.

Senior Elizabeth Stenger began the presentation with her experience of the Christchurch earthquake.

“We didn’t have any idea what was going on,” Stenger said. “The power went out, and the ground was shaking.  We thought it was an aftershock but it just kept going.”

Junior Jen Boston was also studying abroad in New Zealand when the earthquake hit, although she said she was in Dunedin, a city  south of Christchurch.

“I didn’t find out until my host said to go watch the news,” Boston said. “On TV there were pictures of cracked roads and flooding. It was shocking because N.Z. doesn’t censor their news like the U.S. does. You could see bodies lying under rubble and stuff.”

Senior Ariel Lillico experienced the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan while she was studying abroad in Tokyo. Lillico said the earthquake was far away from Tokyo, but they could still feel it.

“I was in my dorm when the earthquake hit,” Lillico said. “The school was near a hospital, so we got power back pretty quickly, but most of the area around didn’t have power.”

Lillico said one of the first things she did after the earthquake ended was get on Facebook and tell everyone that she was okay.

The presenters advised any student who might encounter a natural disaster while studying abroad to keep in contact with their parents and the people at home. Staying in the loop of communication was important during an emergency, they said.

Stenger said that it took two and a half hours for her to get cell phone service so she could call her mother.

“I remember the first message we got was ‘people are hurt,’” Stenger said. “We got a message from the school that they were evacuating the international students. My roommate and I went to spend a week at a friend’s house in Wellington. I think that was a good decision—the parents were wonderful.”

Lillico said that Linfield gave its students in Japan the option to stay or go home, unlike some schools that pulled their students out of Japan.

“I never considered going home,” Lillico said. “I never really felt in danger. A lot of other students were required to go home. Everyone who stayed was really passionate about their opportunity to see Japanese culture, and they didn’t want to have to give that up.”

All in all, the presenters agreed that experiencing disasters while studying abroad was an unforgettable experience, and not necessarily in a bad way.

“The Christchurch earthquake opened up another window into the culture–how they react to disasters,” Boston said. “They pulled through in the most incredible way possible. I learned a lot about myself in that time.”

Sharon Gollery/
Cultures editor
Sharon Gollerycan be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com.

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