Student studies abroad during turmoil

March 19, 2009 4:15:05 AM PDT
A dramatic change of power is taking place halfway around the world and a Triangle college student is in the thick of it.The African country of Madagascar is in crisis. Months of protests and violence have forced its president to step down; now one of his bitter rivals is in charge.

UNC Chapel Hill sophomore Erin Hester left Madagascar Tuesday for mainland Africa, her school and the U.S. State Department say it's safer there.

Her family says she came home from school one day and told them that she wanted to study abroad there.

"I've decided where I'd like to go to study abroad, and I said where? And she said Madagascar," Erin's mother, Ellen Hester said.

In January, the UNC Sophomore packed her bags to study on the small island nation in the Indian Ocean.

For six weeks she's learned the language taken in the scenery and sent pictures home to her parents.

"She says it's just gorgeous, right here it says truly beautiful," Ellen said.

But her adventure came to an abrupt end only weeks in when civil unrest made it unsafe for her to stay.

"She called last Thursday and said we may have to evacuate," Ellen said. "And then I began to get concerned."

The state department advised all U.S. citizens to leave. UNC decided to send students to a safer Botswana on Africa's mainland.

"There have been some killings and there is a potential civil war," Erin's father, Pat Hester, said.

Erin's parents say she's disappointed and so are they, but they're making the best of it.

In a blog posting on Wednesday, Erin wrote that she is safe and that some of the news articles make the unrest seem worse than it is.


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