Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, March 11, 2011

University suspends study abroad programs in Japan after U.S. issues travel warning

U-M and the crisis in Japan: Response, reaction >>

U-M study abroad programs in Japan were suspended Thursday (March 17) after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for the island nation.

Suspension of the programs means the 10 undergraduates registered for those programs will be returning to the United States, says John Godfrey, assistant dean for international studies in the Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Many of those students already have left Japan.


Editors and reporters:
Click here for experts available to discuss the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Message to U-M students from Japan:

If you have been affected by the tsunami in any way and need assistance from the university, please contact the International Center at or 734-764-9310.

You may also contact the Dean of Students Office by calling 734-764-7420 or writing to Although we may not be able to meet every need, we will do our best to be of assistance.

We would also like to remind you that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to help you find support during this stressful time. You can call them at 734-764-8312 or stop by the CAPS office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition, seven graduate students are being “strongly urged” by the university to consider leaving Japan. Most of those students are in the process of leaving the country or have moved to southern cities, farther from the damaged nuclear power plant north of Tokyo.

The travel warning — upgraded from the travel alert that was issued Sunday — means U.S. citizens are being advised not to travel to Japan because of the deteriorating situation with the Fukushima power plant.

“The State Department strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan at this time and those in Japan should consider departing,” the warning says. “On March 16, 2011, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure from Japan of eligible family members of U.S. government personnel in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Yokohama.”

Godfrey says that in accordance with university travel policy, “undergraduates on study abroad programs have been contacted to let them know that these programs have been suspended and that they should return to the U.S.”

Other U.S. universities are taking similar actions.

Godfrey says university officials will work with the returning students to make accommodations that will allow them to complete their studies in Ann Arbor or to receive credit for the work they already have completed in Japan.

Godfrey says members of the university’s International Travel Oversight Committee will continue to stay in touch with any U-M affiliates remaining in Japan.

In the hours following the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan March 11, the university quickly identified 19 students and two faculty members in Japan. The university made contact with all of those individuals and was able to determine that all were safe.

Additionally, a research team of five led by a U-M professor relocated from a Japanese research facility in the northern Tokyo suburb of Saitama. The facility was damaged by the earthquake and the team initially relocated to Osaka. Most members of that team have now left Japan.

The two Stephen M. Ross School of Business faculty members in Japan were scheduled to teach at U-M’s Global MBA program in the Tokyo area, but that program has been canceled and both faculty members have left Japan.

A tsunami smashes vehicles and houses in Kesennuma, Japan following a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake shook Japan on Friday. (Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images)  

None of the U-M affiliates was near the area of northeastern Japan where the impact of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami was the most severe.

The university also has about 100 students from Japan on the Ann Arbor campus.

In an e-mail message to those students, John Greisberger, director of the university’s International Center, offered his sympathy and his assistance.

“We are contacting students from Japan to express our sympathy and concern for you, your family and friends due to the tsunami that hit your country yesterday afternoon.

“If you have been affected by the tsunami in any way and need assistance from the university, please contact the International Center.”

Godfrey also emphasized how important the International Travel Registry has become in emergency situations like this.

The university requires all students participating in university-sponsored international programs to register, providing their location of study and emergency contact information. All students, faculty and staff are encouraged to use the registry.

“The registry information was essential when we needed to evacuate students and staff from Egypt less than two months ago,” Godfrey says.