Despite U.S. drop, Japanese students unfazed at UW

The number of Japanese international students in the United States decreased by 14 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to a study done by the Institute of International Education. However, the UW has countered this national trend.

Instead of decreasing, the number of Japanese international students has increased from 128 in 2010 to 148 in 2012, according to Kim Lovaas, associate director of International Student Services and International Admissions. Lovaas said this is largely due to the fact that the most common crime on campus is theft, and violent crime is very rare.

“We are often asked questions about what the crime is like and about safety on campus,” Lovaas said. “Students and parents have concerns but we tell them about the police department on campus, as well as the Night Ride and Night Walk programs. In the residence halls there are also a lot of programs to teach students about how to be safe.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry thinks the national decrease is largely due to safety concerns in the United States.

“We had an interesting discussion about why fewer students are coming to, particularly from Japan, to study in the United States, and one of the responses I got from our officials from conversations with parents here is that they’re actually scared,” Kerry said in a press conference last week. “They think they’re not safe in the United States and so they don’t come.”

Emi Hayakawa, a Japanese international student at the UW, said she feels very safe at the university.

Hayakawa described her experience at the UW as being very safe from both crime and racial discrimination. She said she does feel safer in Japan then she does in America, but that is because Japan is where she grew up and where her family is, not because Seattle is unsafe. 

Peter Moran, director of International Programs and Exchanges, said that for UW students wanting to study abroad, finances and concerns about transferring credits are more common than concerns about violence in foreign countries.

“We try to worry about [violence and crime] for you,” Moran said.

Moran said it isn’t always the area that creates safety concerns but rather the choices students make overseas. He said students should be aware of their surroundings and look out for each other.

“Seattle can be a dangerous place too,” Moran said. “It’s not just places that seem more foreign and exotic that are going to be dangerous, it can be any place.”

According to Moran, the UW was one of the first universities to staff a global emergency manager. Pascal Schuback, who currently fills the position, is responsible for ensuring a student’s safety as much as possible when he or she is studying abroad.

“He’s monitoring for extreme weather events, geological or earth issues, political crises, and public heath epidemics,” Moran said.

Schuback also has a 24-hour international emergency hotline where students can reach him in case of emergency.

“Some days it’s an earthquake in Peru, and then it’s a student getting injured from a bicycle accident, or even a health incident that could happen on campus or at home,” Schuback said.

Schuback said he is also working on developing new technologies to help students stay safe overseas such as an alert system that enables immediate response when there are emergencies and raising awareness about cyber safety when traveling internationally.

“If it’s digital it can be shared,” Schuback said. “The rights that we have in the United States are not the same around the world, and we need to be aware of that. You still text, you still tweet, you still Facebook even when you’re traveling because the technology is that easy, so you have to be careful about how that information is shared.”

Reach contributing writer Megan Herndon at development@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @megherndon

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