Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Spring Break Trip to Japan, WC Students Will Study Politics and Culture, Offer Tsunami Aid

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Eighteen Washington College students will enjoy a weeklong study-tour of Japan thanks to a generous grant from the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership (CGP).
Professor Andrew Oros, associate professor of political science and international studies, designed the Spring Break trip for students in his “Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy” class to enhance their study of Japanese society and politics. He then sought funding from the CGP.
The Center responded with the first grant under a new initiative called the Japan-American Collegiate Travel Program, intended to give American undergraduate students a more balanced and nuanced understanding of Japan by funding short-term trips there that relate directly to academic coursework. The $52,000 Collegiate Travel Program grant will cover almost all the costs of the trip, including airfare and lodging.
In addition, Dr. Oros used the first “Curriculum Innovation” grant awarded at Washington College to cover the costs of curriculum redesign, trip research and study materials. That $2,500 grant is part of the faculty enhancement monies created through a gift from the Hodson Trust.
Oros designed the trip in collaboration with Professor Noriko Narita, a long-time lecturer in Japanese at the College. In addition to visiting museums, shrines, an onsen bath and a traditional inn during the trip, the students will meet with Japanese politicians and government workers at the national and local levels.
Based primarily in Tokyo, the WC group also will spend a day and a half in Matsushima, a scenic tourist destination and fishing center outside Sendai that was hit hard by the tsunami. While in Matsushima, the students and professors will donate children’s books to a new village library, help assemble prefabricated buildings or cultivate local vegetable plots, and deliver relief funds collected on campus by the Asian Culture Club and other student groups.
The students will be visiting areas of Japan believed to be a safe distance from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, still a source of unsafe levels of radiation. From Tokyo, where they will visit the U.S. Embassy and the Japanese Diet (parliament), they will bullet-train past the Fukushima area to reach Sendai, and then travel on to Matsushima by local train.
For Oros, the upcoming trip achieves one of his top goals as a professor—to get students interested in Asia. “This opportunity to take 18 students on their first trip to Japan is a thrill for me,” he says. “This kind of personal interaction with the students is what drew me to Washington College. I’m grateful for the support of the College in pursuing this grant, and of course to the Japan Foundation for offering such an innovative funding program.”
He credits Professor Narita for suggesting and planning the service trip to Matsushima. “I could not have arranged this without her partnership. I’m especially excited to be able to take students to the affected area and to see it myself.”
To donate to the campus relief funds, please contact Noriko Narita at or 410-778-7861. The group will depart for Tokyo on March 10, 2012 to arrive on the one-year anniversary of the disaster.

Photo of nighttime Tokyo courtesy of photoeverywhere.