April 19, 2010

Students Stuck in Europe, Europeans Stranded in Ithaca After Volcanic Eruption

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The Icelandic volcano eruption that has left thousands of travelers stranded across the globe has left at least one refugee in Tompkins County. Several Cornellians studying abroad in Europe are also unable to return to their host countries after traveling for their spring breaks.

Alex Just, one of the speech and debate coaches for the Cornell Forensics Society, has been stuck in Ithaca ever since his flight home to England was cancelled. After sleeping on couches for two nights in New York City, Just is grateful that he was welcomed back to Ithaca.

“There are definitely worse places to be stuck than the Hillside Inn,” he said.

Prof. Sam Nelson, labor relations, director of the Cornell Forensics Society, has been paying for Just’s hotel room out of his own pocket. “[Just] does a lot,” Nelson said. “He comes here all the way from England and volunteers his time. It’s the least I could do given all he’s done for the Cornell debate team.”

Just, who had been traveling around the country with the Forensics Society, said he does not expect to get a flight back home for another week. To fill his time, he is traveling to Virginia to tomorrow to coach the forensics society at the James Madison Cup.

“It’s good to have a person like him around,” Nelson said. “I guess there is there is a silver lining to every volcanic ash plume.”

The Cornell Abroad office has also been having problems with the travel restriction. The director of the Paris program, who was visiting Cornell, has been unable to get back to his office, leaving employees in Paris working hard to cover for his absence, according to Dr. Richard Gaulton, the director of Cornell Abroad.

Additionally, some Cornell students in study abroad programs have been unable to return to their places of study after leaving for their spring breaks last week. According to Gaulton, three students have already contacted the London office reporting issues with travel.

Air travel has been suspended throughout much of Europe for nearly a week due to the eruption of a volcano in Iceland. The volcano has left a giant ash cloud hanging above Europe, with ash so fine that officials worry it will disrupt the jet engines of airplanes that attempt to fly through the cloud.

Gaulton said that Cornell has emailed all of the students currently abroad, giving them directions on how to get help if they are stranded. Cornell’s international assistance provider, SOS, will provide resources to those who are stranded, he said.

Gaulton said that the vast majority of programs are still far from their conclusions and that the travel restrictions caused by the volcano will not have an impact on students’ plans to return home.

“It’s my impression that this is not a major issue at the moment, but obviously the longer this goes on, the more disruption there will be,” Gaulton said.

Original Author: Juan Forrer