Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2009
"Amazing." This word has been used repeatedly by HWS students and faculty who've participated in recent years in the Technos International Week cross-cultural exchange program sponsored by Technos International College in Tokyo and the Tanaka Ikueikai Educational Trust.
Most recently, when Julie Kingery, assistant professor of psychology, was asked to describe her two-week 2008 experience as the faculty representative on the spring trip, she used that same adjective.
"It sounds like a cliché, but it truly was an amazing experience - so far beyond anything I expected," Kingery said. "Although I had heard from past participants the Technos trip would be amazing, I believe it is nearly impossible to understand the magnitude of this experience unless you have had the opportunity to witness it firsthand."
She and two HWS students not only interacted with Technos International College students and faculty, but also toured Japan and participated in numerous other academic, cultural and social activities - an ideal opportunity to experience and appreciate Japanese life and culture.
In addition to the trip being well thought-out and meticulously planned, Kingery said hosts all along the way were extremely welcoming and graciously provided superb hospitality.
She said so much was learned by herself and students, Joelle Rudnick '10 and Keith Bartlett '11, about Technos International College students and staff, the country, its history, the Japanese way of life. And many wonderful friendships were forged.
An added benefit for Kingery is the impact the trip has had on her teaching of the differences between individualist and collectivist cultures. "I can now share with my students pictures I took and give more detailed and personal examples of things I observed,'' she said. "I think students relate a lot better to learning about what I personally experienced.''
Rudnick and Bartlett said the experience helped shape their futures.
Because of what she learned, the scenery, the friendliness of strangers, the strong friendships developed, and the fact that "Every day of the entire two weeks in Japan was amazing," Rudnick, who is majoring in Asian languages and cultures and minoring in art history, said she hopes to study in Japan next fall and while there, see more famous works of art, temples and shrines.
After she studies abroad, Rudnick is thinking she may want to return to Japan for a time and teach English.
Double majoring in writing and rhetoric and Asian language and cultures, Bartlett, who said his experience in Japan was one of "life-changing proportions," has similar plans.
Because a love of Japan was also awakened in him, he wants to study in Hikone during the fall semester of his senior year. He's hoping to land an internship with a newspaper in Tokyo the previous summer.
Eventually, he'd like to work as an interpreter or representative for a Japanese company in hopes of helping to bridge the language gap for primarily English-speaking clients.
Neeta Bhasin, assistant professor of writing and rhetoric, and first-year students Alexandra "Sasha" Miller and Mary Morgan Williamson have been selected to take the Technos International Week trip this spring.
Annual sponsorship of these trips for two, first- or second- year students and a faculty member, is the outgrowth of a vital friendship, for nearly two decades between the Colleges and the Tanaka family, that began in the late 1980s when Dr. Kenji Tanaka visited HWS with his two daughters, Makiko and Kimiko.
The family began making gifts to the Colleges afterward that were used for general support and its Asian Studies program. In 1992, HWS began formally receiving yearly gifts from the Tanaka Memorial Foundation through which the Tanaka Asian Studies Endowment was established that annually supports the Asian Studies Program, the Tanaka Lectureship in Japanese and more.
In addition to the Endowment, 1992 marked the beginning of two exchanges with Technos International College, sponsored by the Tanaka Ikueikai Educational Trust; the exchange of International Prices for Academic Excellence and International Understanding; and the Technos International Week.
"Words cannot adequately express the truly unique nature of this trip nor how this two-week experience can broaden participants' understanding of the Japanese people, history and culture," Kingery said. "I'm grateful to Dr. Tanaka and The Tanaka Ikueikai Educational Trust for making it possible."
In the photo above, Kingery (center) is with Rudnick and Bartlett.