St. Thomas cancels study abroad programs in Japan

St. Thomas programming has been canceled for six students connected with Japanese study abroad programs.

Two students were studying in Japan, one at Osaka Gakuin University and the other at Kansai Gaidai University, but had to withdraw from the programs due to recent Japan evacuations, according to Ann Hubbard, International Education Center interim director and director of semester and year-long programs. She said plans also were cancelled for four students planning to study abroad in April.

Hubbard said Thursday that one of the two students studying in Japan “is home or literally in transit.” She said individual study would be arranged for him for the remainder of the semester.

She said the other student has withdrawn from St. Thomas for the semester and will remain in Japan independently.

“St. Thomas wants to have study abroad programs only where we have reliability that it is safe for our students,” Hubbard said. “Japan has too many ‘unknowns’ right now and so assuring safety means canceling programming.”

Michael Jordan, director of undergraduate academic affairs, will work with the student who is returning to St. Thomas to determine his needs and financial aid requirements. Jordan also will find courses that will make up for the lost class credits. He also will help the students who were supposed to study abroad in April.

“I have been contacting individual faculty members and department chairs to find faculty teaching appropriate courses who would be able to work with these students,” Jordan said. “So far faculty have been very cooperative and very understanding of the situation.”

Future travel

Junior Jerry Sunde was planning to study abroad in Japan in April, but now he said he has to adjust his schedule due to the program cancellations.

“What’s going on right now is that I decided to change my major so I will not be studying abroad in the future,” Sunde said. He used to be an international business major and will now be a finance major instead.

“St. Thomas is trying to get me into a few classes right now, so that I can participate in the rest of the semester while I make up for the past assignments independently,” he said. He also will have to take some summer classes.

He said St. Thomas has been helpful and supportive during the process.

Hubbard said the future of Japanese study abroad programs depends on the travel warnings.

“If the state department travel warning gets lifted, then that would open Japan back up for St. Thomas,” Hubbard said. “St. Thomas has a policy on the study abroad website about canceling programing with countries with travel warnings.”

With the warnings in place, Hubbard said, St. Thomas is working with students to maximize their credits and minimize the financial impact of the situation.

“I have really seen St. Thomas rally for these students,” Hubbard said. “In international education, we talk about how it takes a village, and it takes a campus to send and support students to study abroad.”

Tom Graves contributed to this story.

Hannah Anderson can be reached at