Japan’s Tragic Earthquake Rocks Columbus State University in Georgia, Literally

Update: CSU's group of students and faculty studying in Japan finally returned home late the night of Wednesday, March 16. The returnees appeared to be in good condition and spirits despite the stress of the last several days and a tiring flight from Tokyo.

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- The powerful earthquake that rocked Japan overnight was strong enough that a Columbus State University seismometer clearly picked up the earth’s movement -- for four hours.

CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center started recording the earthquake on their machine about 6 a.m. universal time, which was about 1 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. An image of the quake’s register can be seen online at http://www.ccssc.org/rtmd/drumplot/index.html.

The earthquake also caused concerns for many around Columbus State University, as a group of six students and two art faculty members are in Japan this week as part of a study abroad program. Officials heard from the group early Friday morning and all are safe.

japanese students

Their Saturday travel plans were delayed, but the group was assured they would be able to return to the United States within a few days. They remain at the Tokyo hotel where they had been staying.

Representatives of CSU’s Division of Continuing Education said all but a half dozen of the 22 Japanese students visiting Columbus State’s English Language Institute had heard via text, e-mail or social media that their family members were okay.

“They’re all doing incredibly well, considering,” said Susan Wirt, director of Continuing Education at Columbus State. “There were some concerned looks, but overall they appeared okay.”

All of the 14 female and eight male students, ages 18-22, attend Teikyo University in Tokyo and had family in the Japanese capital or south of there. None were from the hardest-hit area of northern Japan.

Continuing Education officials, aided by two local volunteer translators, met with the students before 8 a.m. at the hotel near main campus where the group is staying. After consulting with the group, it was decided they would proceed to Atlanta for a planned weekend of sightseeing and shopping excursion.

“They’re just trying to get through via their cell phones and other means,” Wirt said. “They know they’re safe here.”

The Teikyo University students arrived Feb. 27 and are scheduled to return to Japan March 18 after participating in the ELI’s Immersion Excursion, designed to improve their English and understanding of the U.S.

So far, they’ve attended English language classes, toured CSU, heard lectures from Columbus State professors, dined with faculty and staff who invited them to their homes, visited such local points of interest as the Springer Opera House and National Infantry Museum and taken in such sporting events as a CSU baseball game and a Columbus Cottonmouths hockey match.