MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities study abroad program just ended for some Japanese students. On Tuesday afternoon, they’ll head home to disaster.
There are 34 students in the Twin Cities from all over Japan, studying through University of Niigata Prefecture. It’s part of a program with the St. Paul Intercultural Institute.
Misaki Mashiko and Sari Oikawa are from the hardest hit areas.
They want to go back home, but they expect to find little when they get there.
“My mother says every dish was broken and shelf was overturned,” said Misaki, following a conversation with her mother in Sendai, Japan, the earthquake’s epicenter. “A very, very huge earthquake and probably a lot of house was broken.”
Her parents can’t live in their home, and it’s likely Sari’s can’t live in theirs.
Sari grew up in Ofunato City just three blocks from the ocean. The tsunami washed over the city.
“My house was broken by earthquake and tsunami,” she said. “Many buildings that I know were destroyed. I can’t understand yet. I can’t imagine yet.”
The phone company relayed Sari a message that her family is alright, but some of her relatives are staying in a shelter at an elementary school in Japan.
The two have had great experiences the last three weeks in Minnesota, but these Minnesota memories are now overshadowed by the heartbreak they feel for their country.
Both girls also worry about their friends. They haven’t heard from them and fear they might not survive.
“My hometown was broken, so I don’t want to see the landscape,” Misaki said.
She and Sari learned English in America, and they’ve learned compassion too.
“My host mother hugged me,” Misaki said. “There are so many people worried about my family.”
At a time when the Japanese people are devastated, Sari and Misaki will return home with new hope and new strength.
They’ll fly to Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon and will then take a bus to their hometowns.
Their host families invited them to stay in Minnesota longer, but their university wants them back home.