Dartmouth takes in students who can't go to Japan

By Holly Ramer
Associated Press / March 25, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H.—Though the sushi and sashimi combo at the Yama Restaurant in Hanover probably isn't what their newest students had in mind, Dartmouth College is doing its best to welcome a group whose study abroad plans were derailed by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Dartmouth, which last year accepted students displaced by earthquakes in Haiti and Italy, is now taking in seven students from Brown University and Boston University who were indirectly displaced by the disasters in Japan.

Colleges and universities around the country have been cancelling their study abroad programs in Japan, bringing home students who were already there and cancelling plans to send students this spring.

That has created problems for students who attend schools where the spring semester started in January. But Dartmouth was able to accommodate them because it operates on a quarter system, with the spring quarter starting on Monday.

After a few days of scrambling to get everything in place, six students from Brown and one from BU will start classes in Hanover on Monday, Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson said.

Ben DeWinter, associate provost for international programs at Boston University, said BU officials contacted Dartmouth last week when they realized that Dartmouth's academic year might make it an option for the displaced students.

"Students are grateful there's an option, and this is a very good one," he said. "On the other hand, the timing was difficult. Everything happened on such short notice, so it's not easy to make a U-turn and begin at another institution."

Students who didn't take Dartmouth up on its offer will attend summer school in Boston instead, he said.

Dartmouth, which has a strong program in Japanese language and literature, has an orientation program for new or visiting students each quarter, and the residence hall advisers have been asked to get in touch with the incoming students to help with the transition, said Lindsay Whaley, associate dean for international and interdisciplinary programs at Dartmouth.

"This has been a challenging situation for the students, resetting their expectations for what they're going to be doing this spring and needing to make a decision quickly about whether they wanted to spend the spring term at Dartmouth and trying to figure out which courses they could take," he said. "It's really been impressive to see them deal with the ambiguities and stresses of getting all this done, and they've done great."

The University of Notre Dame in Indiana has three students in the same situation -- the spring semester started in January, but they weren't scheduled to leave for Japan until late this month. Spokesman Dennis Brown said the school will work with those students individually to figure out a way for them to remain on campus and on schedule. One option may be looking at other study abroad programs, he said.

"We're going to have to work with them in a more creative way over the next couple of months," he said.

The University of California system had about 45 students set to travel to Japan this month, said Mary McMahon, a regional director for the system's education abroad program. But most were enrolled on campuses that have similar schedules to Dartmouth and so could return to classes with little trouble.