Ten students from different majors visited Tokyo International University and toured Japan this month, making good on a memorandum of understanding Emerson President Lee Pelton signed with the Japanese institution last year.
Paul Niwa, interim chair of the Journalism Department, said the trip is just one way to help students become global citizens, both socially and professionally.
“Whether the student is a future screenwriter, poet, political communicator, or journalist,” Niwa said, “[the trip demonstrated] they could interact in Japan comfortably, see that people there speak English fairly well, see the parallels between our American system and the Japanese system, and see that it’s a little different.”
Niwa, who accompanied the students along with Sharmishtha Roy Chowdhury, historian-in-residence, said the trip was funded largely with a grant from The Japan Foundation, a public institution dedicated to sharing Japanese culture and language globally.
Ashley Delma ’15, a Journalism major, said she thought she knew a lot about Japan after reading a textbook, but said, “I didn’t really until this trip.”
“There’s so much I saw in person, like how clean it was, how polite the people were, and how quiet it was on the train,” Delma said. “A book can’t tell you that.”
Aya Minami ’14, a Journalism major who was raised in Japan, was the only Japanese speaker on the trip.
“It was my first experience going to Japan with American students who have a completely different point of view,” Minami said. “It was exciting to see how they judge and evaluate Japanese culture.”
Students asked Minami how they should look, behave, and speak before taking the trip.
“After arriving there, they realized it’s quite similar to American culture,” she said.
The students visited a long list of sites, including Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan; Akihabara, the “anime capital”; as well as a Buddhist temple, bamboo forest, and lavish gardens.
But for Jessica Stamey ’16, a Writing, Literature and Publishing major, her favorite part of the trip was the food.
“I’ve gone on a Japanese food kick since I’ve been home,” Stamey said. “I’ve gone to the Japanese market in Cambridge with [Minami] and we made our own sushi. That was exciting.”
The memorandum of understanding between Emerson and TIU encourages the two institutions to engage in summer programs, along with exchanges and collaborative research projects.
A strategic goal of Pelton’s is a “commitment to benefit the global society” that includes overseas educational partnerships with a focus on Europe and Asia.