Keeta Koalska Reflects on Past Few Days in Santiago

By Carolyn Clark and Shaun Janis

Keeta Koalska, a junior at Syracuse University, recalls the earthquake as a moment of confusion and fear. But with the help of SU’s emergency plan and her host family, Keeta felt safe. She’s ready and excited for classes to begin since Santiago has experienced minimal damage. Still, she notes, there are some concerns like loose falling objects and aftershocks.

Here she shares what she remembers from when Chile started shaking:

When the earthquake hit I was sleeping in my bed. It was my first night with my Chilean host family. My whole family was home. My host mom, host dad, and host little brother.
When I first woke up I did not know at all what was going on. At first I thought it was my dream becuase I have never seen things shake around me like they were.
Everyone around me did a great job at staying calm, but everyone was shaken up.
I was for sure scared at first but the fear didn’t last long. My host family did a great job at making me feel okay. Now I look at it as a learning experience.
My home and the homes around me were built to withstand an earthquake and have little damage, but some of the homes of other students did not stay as put together. And south of Santiago whole towns are down because of the earthquake.
As far as I can tell the local athorities and handling the situation well and keeping everyone calm. Things here seem very organized.

SU called my family at home before I could reach them. This was a relief to them because they were very worried.
I am lucky to have internet, which allows me

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to talk to people and let them know everything is okay. I have been able to talk to people from home and from SU.
Many of the businesses around me do not have electricity and are closed, and my host parents told me this will have a huge effect on the economy. They also told me it will be about a month before things are completly back to normal.
SU Abroad had a great plan set for us that we learned as soon as we arrived in Chile. We knew what to do during and immediatly after the earthquake. They made the plan so that they would be able to know if we were okay also and it all worked very smoothly. Then, like I said, they immediatly called my parents when they knew we were okay, which was so helpful for them and, I´m sure, all the parents of SU students.
Things will continue as planned here in Santiago. The only changes are that our orientation and registration are a bit delayed but the universities that we are attending had little damage so things should go relatively smoothly. I have no desire to change my plans. My host family is awesome and I  think I will love Santiago despite the damage.
My host family is doing well. My mother has family south of Santiago and she has not been able to communicate with them so she is trying to stay positive but she is very worried.
Aftershocks are something to be aware of and things could still be falling from buildings, but in Santiago I feel pretty safe. South of us the people had to worry about a tsunami following the earthquake.

–Keeta Koalska


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