UC Study Abroad Students in Chile Confirmed Safe

Education Abroad Program participants used Facebook, Twitter and e-mail to contact friends and family, reports The Daily Bruin student newspaper.

By Kelly Zhou for The Daily Bruin

All 58 University of California students who are currently studying abroad in Chile have been accounted for, after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit the country Saturday morning.

“We were able to ascertain their whereabouts and that they were safe,” said Ines DeRomana, principal analyst of safety, security and health affairs at the UC Education Abroad Program system-wide office.

More than 700 people have died in the South American country, which continues to face numerous aftershocks. About 1.5 million homes were damaged, according to BBC News.

Despite the damage, Chile has yet to request international assistance.

Charles Stanishok, director of the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, compared Chile to the U.S. in terms of its ability to rebuild. Stanish, who has worked in areas such as Chile, Peru and Bolivia, said Chile may not need help rebuilding because it is such a wealthy country.

Referring to photographs published of the damage, he noted that structures adhered to earthquake construction codes, as “buildings fell over in large blocks” and “even the roads collapsed in intact, giant sections.”

Of the 58 UC students in the UC EAP in Chile, there are six UCLA participants.

These semester or year-long study abroad programs are held at the Universidad de Chile and the Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago, the capital. The quake struck about 200 miles southwest of the capital.

According to DeRomana, many of the students had been traveling around Chile on break after finishing an intensive language course.

Some of the UCLA students were exploring cities such as Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales-Patagonia, so they were south of the quake and remained unharmed.

They were preparing to return to Santiago for the start of classes on March 1, which has now been postponed until March 8.

“They all seem okay, they were nervous about missing classes and concerned about their friends,” DeRomana said. “They are okay, now they know that the classes have been postponed as well.”

With the help of technology like Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, as well as through parents, the EAP office quickly connected with all of the students. Dozens of UC students used the Facebook page “Huevons y Huevonas de UC EAP Chile 2010!” to instantly notify everyone of their circumstances.

DeRomana said the students are returning to Santiago soon, hopefully by plane if domestic flights begin tomorrow as expected, or by long bus rides.

“We’re working carefully with our travel security provider to find out about the infrastructure damage and what is happening all over Chile,” DeRomana said.

Published: Monday, March 01, 2010