Study abroad trip has shaky start

Some Crusaders in Latin America began their day with a shaky start when a 7.6 magnitude earthquake seized and rocked the landscape of Costa Rica.

Aside from the 30 seconds of trembling, what left many shaking was the thought of a possible tsunami to follow.

“The earthquake was surreal, humbling, and awe-inspiring.” said senior political science and Spanish major Branden Montgomery of the Sept. 5 event.

He is one of four UMHB students studying abroad there.

They are studying Spanish and have been in Costa Rica since August. They will return to the U.S. in December.

A view of the streets of Costa Rica where a recent 7.6 magnitude earthquake shook the country’s residents. Courtesy photo.

When the earthquake hit, Montgomery was caught unaware.

He said, “I had just finished breakfast with my family and was putting my lunch in my bag when the house began to shake. I thought it was just a large truck driving by, but when it continued and increased in ferocity along with my Tican mother yelling, praying and crying, I realized what it was.”

While Montgomery was preparing for his day, junior international business major Blake Mariage was sound asleep. For him, the tremor was simply a bothersome disruption.

He said, “The earthquake was like a dream. In fact, I thought it was a dream because it woke me from my slumber around 9 a.m…. I sat up in my bed as I tried to gain consciousness of the

situation… For some reason, I didn’t get up or panic. Instead, I went right back to sleep just as quickly as I had been rudely awakened by Mother Nature.”

Only minimal damage was reported and so far, only one directly related death has been documented. Following the quake, life continued as usual for the students.

Montgomery said, “Afterward, I finished packing my lunch and walked to class. Everything seemed normal outside, almost as if nothing happened.”

Junior Spanish education major Ashley Settles’ morning came to a sudden halt during the tremor.

“My first earthquake experience wasn’t as crazy as I thought it would be. I was running at a park with my Tican sister, Valeria, when all of a sudden, people started screaming everywhere. At the time, I didn’t know the word for earthquake, so I had absolutely no idea what was going on. It wasn’t until my Tican sister stopped me that we felt the earthquake… As soon as I felt the ground shaking, I instantly got nauseous.”

As the earth was quaking in Central America, hearts were pounding in Central Texas.

After hearing reports of a sizable earthquake in Costa Rica, UMHB alumna Brittany Montgomery, who works at KCEN-TV, was concerned for her brother Branden.

She said, “I heard about the earthquake first on Twitter, which I check every morning. Then I started watching videos and reading stories about it when I got to my job, which happens to be at a news station.”

Brittany reported that the program facilitating the trip was prompt in sending an email which assured family members that all of the students were safe and accounted for.

As the story developed, tensions rose but were quickly calmed .

She said, “I was worried about Branden and the other students there, but I read pretty quickly that no deaths or injuries had been reported in San Jose, where they were staying.”

Despite this, her parents were still anxious.

Branden said, “I wasn’t able to get online or use a phone until later that night, but once I could, I was bombarded with concern and questions by my family and friends. I let everyone know that I along with the rest of the students in the program, were well”

The Montgomery family was relieved to hear from Branden.

Brittany said, “My parents were worried, especially my mom. I think it’s a mother’s job to worry extra about her kids. Once we heard from Branden, they were fine.”

Settles said that most students’ families were shaken.

“After listening to stories from my classmates, some of their parents got really upset,” she said.

As if an earthquake was not enough to rattle some nerves, the Costa Rican state department soon issued a tsunami alert following the tremor.

Branden said, “I received an email from the state department warning me of the tsunami threat, but knowing that San Jose is in the mountains, I didn’t worry about my personal safety, but rather those who had the potential to be affected.”

The possibility of a tsunami never registered with Settles.

She said, “The threat of a tsunami didn’t feel real to me. I live one to two hours from the coast, but I didn’t quite know when or what to expect.”

Settles said that the epicenter was 90 miles away from her San Jose location. The reason for the minimal damage was the epicenter’s deep location within the earth.

Settles acknowledges that going through an earthquake was an interesting experienece, but one she doesn’t care to relive.

She said, “A lot of people in the states think it’s cool to say you’ve been in an earthquake, but in reality, the people here are terrified of them. They are real and can be very deadly,”

Author: Antonio Hebert

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