Overseas studies safety explained

A massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile in February. The quake was centered south of where Stanford has a Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) center in Santiago. Twenty-one students were studying there at the time. One was injured, and all were quickly accounted for.

Besides Santiago, the BOSP offers students study opportunities in Australia, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Cape Town, Florence, Kyoto, Madrid, Moscow, Oxford and Paris. Each year, approximately 800 students study at one of the BOSP centers.

Irene Kennedy, who has been executive director of BOSP for nine years, talks about the earthquake in Chile and the lessons learned. She also offers advice for the parents of students traveling overseas to study.

What happened at the Stanford Santiago campus as a result of the earthquake?

The earthquake happened on a weekend and early in the morning when most students were at home with their host families. Our emergency plan and phone tree kicked in immediately. The Stanford staff in Santiago quickly tried to get ahold of everyone and make sure everyone was OK, including a large group of students that was traveling for the weekend. The center director contacted our office right after the earthquake happened. We were in contact as regularly as possible throughout the crisis.

How is everything at the Santiago center now?

Everything is in pretty good shape. We had a seismic engineer look at the center. There was no structural damage. There were superficial cracks that are now being fixed. Students are studying there now. We worked with students to offer alternatives if they were concerned, and a couple chose to attend another BOSP center.

Have you made any changes to the facility or program as a result of the earthquake?

We’ve decided to add some emergency supplies at the center itself. They have an emergency back-up system, but it ran for a limited number of hours. We decided to augment the emergency equipment there.

We also are strictly limiting student travel in Chile during the Spring Quarter. Students are prohibited from traveling to the Concepción and surrounding areas, the part of the country hardest hit. And we are requiring each student to have a personal cell phone.

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