Thursday, March 17, 2011

UAB student in Japan tells ABC 33/40 he plans to stay

UAB student Mel Thompson plans to stay in Japan to finish his studies, he told reporter Ana Jasen with ABC 33/40 in an online interview via Skype.

Many students have already left the country. Of the 13 students living in his apartment complex, only five now remain, Thompson told Jasen. Thompson says he is about 15 miles outside of Tokyo. He is far from the area where earthquake and tsunami-damaged nuclear plants and subsequent radiation fears have gripped the world, although he is eating seaweed for iodine as he cannot find iodine tablets. Classes at Nihon University have been temporarily suspended.

Thompson, 21, of Trussville, told Jasen he is well prepared and is conserving stocks of food and water. “I have another semester I need to graduate so I fully plan on staying in Japan,” he wrote in an e-mail to UAB News.

The situation in Tokyo is not as dire as in other parts of Japan, Thompson says. The Japanese people are calmly going about their daily business, despite hardships including empty grocery shelves and water conservation. He wrote that he cannot speak for Fukushima, where officials are racing to avert a nuclear crisis, “but the rest of Japan seems to be stable and orderly, not in a scene of chaos,” he wrote.

Josh Carter, director of UAB’s Study Away program, is proud of Thompson and Drew Holmes, another UAB student who has elected to stay.

“They have not panicked during this devastating scenario," Carter wrote in an e-mail. "They appear to be acting in a calm, cool and collected manner. They are following the protocols set forth by their host universities, the Japanese government and the U.S. Embassy in Japan. We are monitoring the situation as time progresses. Of course, should there be a change in status of the students or the safety situation in Japan we would recommend what the U.S. State Department recommends at that time. If they stay, we will continue to serve as their study abroad office and assist them as we can until they return home. Both of their programs are set to end on or around April 6."

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