Reflections – July 6

8 07 2010

by Professor George Sanchez

Having been back in the United States for one week, I’ve been able to reflect on the overall educational outcomes of the America in Japan Summer Intensive Program coordinated by the Norman Topping Scholars Program and USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. Many of our students were able to travel to and learn about Japan for the first time in their lives in a structured environment, safe to explore another country in which they did not know the language spoken, but able to learn first-hand about another national culture through exploration and experience. Many had never traveled outside the U.S. before, and several would not have tried without this structured learning environment. We packed a tremendous amount of information and experiential learning into our three-week program, which left most of us exhausted but excited about everything we had encountered. Whether it was learning to use chopsticks, execute the proper official bow, or how to exchange ideas with Japanese students, each learning experience opened up a world of cultural exchange in very personal ways.

The power of the history of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, the beauty of the gardens and shrines of Kyoto, the creativity and industriousness of Nagoya, and the bustling and crowded streets of Tokyo all had an impact which will resonate for years, if not lifetimes, across each of our students. Several have already decided to change majors, take new courses and languages, and even try new directions in their career paths based on their experiences on this trip. All seem open to further travel abroad, including in organized study abroad semesters, in Asia and throughout the world. I witnessed education come alive for these students, beyond the books, papers and exams that usually shape common courses, towards life-altering experiences that can help integrate learning with daily life in new and challenging environments. As a USC faculty member, I leave this experience even more committed to helping students open themselves to other cultures and nations through their education to become truly global scholars and students of the world. I can’t wait until we organize another immersion program!

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