Earthquake cancels trip to Japan

"An independent study quarter course bound for Japan over spring break to study the effects of nuclear proliferation was forced to cancel its trip after a devastating magnitude 9.0-earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

"The group of five students and one professor learned the night before their scheduled departure that Joshua McKeown, director of International Education, was cancelling the trip. Alok Kumar, the physics professor teaching the quarter course, said it was the right decision.

""It’s a tremendous heartbreak for me," Kumar said. "At the same time I feel very lucky for our group."

"Had the group gotten to Japan, it would have been difficult to get to Hiroshima and return home, Kumar said.

"The group was going to Japan to study the physical, social and political effects of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. The purpose was to study the past and its effects to learn how to shape the future.

""Hiroshima represents the capacity of human destruction, but at the same time it’s a symbol of peace because the Japanese people decided to promote it and the whole world community joined," Kumar said.

"Hiroshima has been a focal point of nuclear disarmament since WWII. On Aug. 6, 1945, Hiroshima was the target of the first atomic bomb dropped as a weapon. The explosion had the force of 20,000 tons of TNT, destroyed more four square miles and killed or injured more than 140,000 people.

"The trip, however, was as much about the future as the past, Mukar said. As a result of the efforts at Hiroshima, destruction of all nuclear weapons is now a "mainstream idea" that’s being publicly discussed by world leaders. Both the United States and Russia, which possess the vast majority of the world’s nuclear weapons, have pledged to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

"The quarter course group destined for Japan planned to meet the mayor of Hiroshima and visit the U.N. Institute of Peace to talk with doctors and scientists that studied survivors after the bombing. The group also planned to meet with numerous "hibakusha," a Japanese word literally meaning "explosion-affected people." There are few living survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

""It was a lifetime opportunity to learn from the very best people in the world on this topic and that opportunity was missed," Kumar said.

"Kumar worked with International Education for almost a year to coordinate the trip and itinerary. He said he initially hoped to just delay the trip until summer, but several of the students were graduating, so it was cancelled. Kumar said he wants to plan the trip for next year, but isn’t sure if it will be possible.

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"Foreign exchange students

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"Eight foreign exchange students from Japan that are studying at Oswego State received word that their homeland had been rocked by an earthquake and tsunami over spring break.

"None of the students were back Japan for break because of the expense and time constraints, said Gurdeep Skolnik, associate director for International Student and Scholar Services.

""None of them came from the affected area [in northeastern Japan,]" Skolnik said. The students are from northwestern Japan.

"Skolnik said the students and their families were fine, but they were still trying to get in touch with friends.

"Skolnik said the students were contacted by the office of International Education to ensure they were safe and offer counseling services.

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