After March 11, a large number of foreign students temporarily left Japan. Though almost 90 percent returned for the new school term starting in April, the number seeking to start their studies this fall is expected to decline significantly. This will unfortunately more than likely impact the 300,000 Foreign Student Plan being promoted by the government.
Sophia University student Bettina Gasser was ironically at the Tokyo immigration office extending her student visa when the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake struck.
The following day there was a hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Two days later the Swiss native went to stay with her former homestay family in Osaka. However, her father was not satisfied. The Swiss Embassy was urging its citizens in Tokyo and Yokohama to leave the country.
For Gasser, even in Switzerland after she returned home, the top news story on television every day was about the disaster in Japan. More than the earthquake and tsunami, however, the biggest subject of concern was the nuclear accident.
However, her parents had requested she take a temporary leave from school and an acquaintance in her neighborhood argued, “If something happens, it will be hard to get out of Tokyo.”
In May, Gasser, “feeling sorry about leaving Japan in its time of need,” went to Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture to work as a volunteer clearing away rumble and debris.