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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 — Houston, TX

Japanese int'l study on indefinite hiatus

By Ellen Liu     4/14/11 7:00pm

Rice suspended student participation in study-abroad and exchange programs in Japan until further notice, Assistant Dean for Student Judicial Programs Donald Ostdiek announced. This decision affects the summer plans of three students who signed up for Japanese programs administered by Rice International Programs.

The suspended programs were the Rice exchange program with Keio University in Tokyo, which involved two students, and a third party program in Beppu that involved one student.

Ostdiek said he made the decision to suspend the programs in the interest of student safety after careful evaluation and collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates, the President's Office, Risk Management and the General Counsel. He added that he was following U.S. Department of State guidance and standards of best practice in the foreign education field but was not actually cancelling any programs.

Office of International Programs Associate Director Beata Loch said other U.S. colleges and universities are also discontinuing their study abroad programs in Japan because of concerns about student safety.

For students currently in Japan, Loch said that due to the differences in academic calendars, they would be on break between semesters and wouldn't have to leave ongoing programs.

Rice International Programs Advisor Tracy Kimutis said Rice could not release the names of the three students but that they were all mature and understanding during the decision process and afterward.

"No student complaints [were] directed to us," Kimutis said. "I am sure they were very disappointed, but they handled themselves very well, I feel, and seemed to realize the decisions were of course being made with their best interest and safety in mind."

Study abroad programs in Japan that are not through the university's International Programs office were also affected. One of them, NanoJapan, intended to allow its participants to conduct nanotechnology research in Japan. This summer, it proposed an alternate activity, Reverse NanoJapan – the opportunity to work on nanotechnology projects at Rice with graduate students from Japan. These graduate students are from universities affected by the disaster and will stay at Rice as research mentors, allowing the program to keep its objective of international collaboration.

One of the NanoJapan students, McMurtry College freshman Joseph Vento, said he felt that the changes to the program were necessary and a good solution to something that could not have been foreseen, given the earthquake and its effects. He cited the closing of Tohoku University — a partner university of the NanoJapan program — and health and safety concerns with the continued impact of the earthquake as reasons for the changes.

He said the NanoJapan students will have lessons in Japanese for several weeks and group outings around Houston. At the end of the summer, they will present their work at the Rice Quantum Institute Colloquium in August, and over the week of Thanksgiving, when conditions should be safer for travel, they will go on a study tour in Japan, during which they will present their research again and experience various cultural outings.

Vento said he is not sure if he will apply to study abroad in Japan again to make up for missing out this time, but he is looking forward to the study tour next year.

"Perhaps that will influence me to want to go back," Vento added. "I already admire the Japanese for their dedication to fixing the many problems their country faces right now."

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