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Japanese Exchange Students Deal With Disaster From Afar

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American University currently has more than 60 Japanese international students on its campus.

Many haven't been back home for months, but Yumi Matsumora is an exception. She was at home in Japan when the earthquake hit and ensuing tsunami struck. Her family's home is far from the coast and the worst hit areas, but she's still extremely worried about her parents and siblings, and says leaving them to come back to the United States was emotional.

"I just didn't want to be here by myself..in a safe place, per se. I just really want to help right now," she says.

That's a common feeling among the Japanese students here. But Heidi Ashton Yoon, a program director for American, says most students have come to grips with the fact that returning home isn't the best idea right now.

"We're hearing that there's water shortages, food shortages...the best thing you can do is to stay local and do what you can from here," Ashton says.

And Thursday afternoon, Jintae Kim and other Japanese International students set up a booth seeking donations from students milling about on the main campus green.

"For now, what we can do is raise the awareness of this Earthquake here, even though its far away from Japan...and keep the attention all around world to Japan," Kim says.

Kim is scheduled to return to Japan to complete his college degree after this summer. Yumi Matsumora is scheduled to graduate. Both say they plan to volunteer in the Northern part of Japan, worst hit by the disaster, as soon they can.

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