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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

After shock: Students react to Chilean earthquake

Published: March 5, 2010
Section: Features

The reverberations of last week’s 8.8 earth quake in Chile are being felt at Brandeis. The earthquake, one of the largest to ever hit the South American country, hit in the early morning hours and killed close to three hundred people.

Brandeis currently has one student studying abroad in Chile. While officials in the Study Abroad Office would not release the name of the student or the program the student is traveling with, the office has confirmed that the student is safe and not returning back to the States.

Several students applied to study abroad in Chile next year, but their travels will not be affected by the quake as Chilean schools will be reopening by next week at the latest.

Perhaps some of the most effected are students who have studied abroad in Chile previously and were worried about the safety of the friends they met there.

Simona Lang ’10, who studied in Santiago in fall 2008 stayed with three separate host families during her time in South America and returned to do research this past winter break.

Lang said she developed a strong bond with two of the families.

Lang first learned of the earthquake via text message Saturday morning when friends who knew of her Chilean connection texted her when they learned the news.

“I turned my computer on right away and tried to get a hold of people. I was so scared my friends and family that I had created in my time there were going to be hurt or worse,” she said. “I was trying to be really logical thinking ‘well of course they don’t have phones or internet maybe they’re fine and I just can’t get a hold of them.’”

She has since gotten in touch with one of her host families. She has been unable to get in touch with the other family, which lives in a rural area and does not have regular access to phones or internet without traveling to a larger city.

Lang said it is unlikely she will get in touch with them but she hopes they are doing well. Lang plans to try and have other people go to their home and check on them and the town this weekend.

Facebook has aided students and families with communication throughout the world in this hard time. Through status updates and messages many people have been able to receive updates about their families and friends.

The facebook status of Liana Landon-Embry ’11, who studied abroad in Arica, Chile this fall reads “pensando de nuestros queridos chilenos,”or ‘thinking of our beloved Chileans.”

Because she studied in Northwestern Chile, more than a thousand miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, Langdon-Embry said the people she met were not effected by the earthquake, but the news scared her nonetheless.

“I immediately tried to phone my host mom to see if she was okay, but the phone lines were down,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Hoot.  “I was able to contact several of my friends through Facebook to make sure they were safe. Luckily enough, no one I know was directly hurt by the quake but a few of my Chilean friends had friends who were injured and whose homes were seriously damaged.”

Lang said she has been heartened by the support she has felt from her fellow students.

Even though there are several students who have studied abroad in the past few years in Chile there are currently no plans for relief events on campus.

“I’ve personally thought of doing something of that nature but I myself don’t have the time with my academics to do something like that,”Lang said.  “I don’t think I’ll try to make one but there are other events in Boston that will feature Chilean music and food in order to raise money for the country.”

Lang also said she was worried that any efforts to help Chile monetarily will overshadow ongoing Haitian relief efforts.

“With all the other relief events on campus, I am worried that there will be a competition for funds and that’s never a good thing,” Lang said.

Though they have no plans to raise funds, both Lang and Langdon-Embry said they support the Chileans.

“All the messages I’ve gotten from people are really about how grateful [the Chileans] are to know the world cares about them. The Rabbi at the congregation I attended while I was there to my host mom, they’re all just so humbled by the support of the world right now” Lang said. “Chile has really become a part of who I am. I’ve become fluent [in Spanish] and been able to learn about the world while learning about myself.”

“My favorite part of Chile is the spirit of the people,” Langdon-Embry wrote. “They are extremely proud and although their country is facing this catastrophe, their strength sustains. I absolutely plan to go back.”