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Students, faculty experience once-in-a-lifetime trip to Japan

odaiba in tokyo


By Julia Duvall

Students and faculty recently returned from three trips to Japan that gave them the opportunity to experience the culture, education, business and tech ventures of the country as part of several travel courses offered by Western Carolina University’s School of Engineering and Technology, the History and World Languages departments, and the College of Business.

A total of 35 students who came from various programs across campus, including engineering and technology, history, chemistry, computer science, education, Japanese and business, spent the trip learning about other universities, participating in a tea ceremony and visiting several museums and historical sites in Tokyo, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara.

“This trip encouraged students to experience Japanese culture and appreciate its influence on engineering, technology, education and business practices in Japan within a global context,” said Yanjun Yan, associate professor in the College of Engineering and Technology, who also developed the travel course, ENGR 365 Global Engineering and Technology.

One trip was led by Yan and Gael Graham from the History Department, one trip by Scott Rader from the College of Business, and one trip by Yumiko Ono from the World Languages Department.

The group traveled across various parts of Japan, from metropolitan cities to historical towns and visited companies, manufacturing sites, museums, historical sites and cultural sites.

The six-credit course combo, led by Yan and Graham, is offered each summer and is available to all WCU students as part of the liberal studies program.



“A few highlights of our trip include meeting with Chukyo University’s research lab, two Hiroshima University faculty members and more than 20 students in their English program to spend almost four hours together on designs,” said Yan. “We were also able to meet with some Japanese friends who organized a workshop for the students to learn to make a Japanese snack called wagashi and make tea and participate in the tea ceremony. Our visits to the teamLab planets in Tokyo, the Toshiba museum, the Toyota museum and traveling to Miyajima, Kyoto, were all great experiences for the students.”

Graham shared that the students journaled as part of the course work and they formed close friendships with one another during the trip.

Yan is grateful for the continued support from WCU and her fellow colleagues for these international trips.

“The pandemic prevented many study-abroad activities and we are glad that we can finally get these trips going again,” Yan said. “I am very grateful for such strong support and meaningful collaboration from Dr. Graham, Dr. Rader and Dr. Ono. We don’t take any of this for granted, and we are grateful for such a group of wonderful teachers and friends right here on campus.”

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