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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Grant helps students study in Japan

Published November 29th, 2012

UW-River Falls has received a $46,000 grant toward the Japan Study Tour that will impact 15 students choosing to study abroad in Japan.

“The grant we received is called the Japan-America Collegiate Exchange Travel Grant and the Japan Foundation made it available to U.S. undergraduate students recently in the hope of providing more U.S. college students with the opportunity to gain a more nuanced and balanced understanding of Japanese culture, society and history by visiting the country,” said Zhiguo Yang, chair of history and philosophy.

Yang explained that the Japan Foundation is a non-profit organization that was established by the Japanese Parliament (Diet) in the 1970s to promote cultural and educational exchanges between Japan and the rest of the world, including the U.S.

He heard about the application for the grant through Brent Greene, director of Global Connections.

“This is really unusual for an undergrad program to get funding by a specific host country,” said Greene.

He explained that he discovered the opportunity for a grant after seeing it in an email and thought to pass it along to Yang.

“Yang has done a great job setting this up,” said Greene. “It really lowers the cost for this program.”

Yang said that the application was submitted to the Japan Foundation’s New York office this past August where the application was reviewed and then submitted a recommendation for funding to the Foundation’s central office in Tokyo. It was confirmed through the Tokyo Headquarters of the Foundation and they notified Yang.

“Each student will receive $2,730 to defray the travel expenses that were originally about $5,000, so with this grant a UWRF student only needs to pay $1,900 for the study tour,” said Yang. “The Japan Foundation will provide this funding for up to 15 students.”

Yang explained that in order to get the funding a student needs to apply for the Japan Study Tour program by the deadline on Jan. 7, 2013. They also must register for the three credit History 371 class that meets the global perspective requirement for graduation and attend nine pre-departure lectures about the history and culture of Japan. The Japan Study Tour will go from May 16, 2013, through May 28.

Students on the trip will visit Tokyo, Mount Fuji National Park, Nara, Kyoto, Himeji and Hiroshima. Both Yang and professor Magara Maeda, instructor of Japanese, will be attending the trip and travel with the students. Yang will be teaching Asian history and Japanese Civilization.

With the connection with the Japan Foundation established, Yang said that they will work together to strengthen UWRF’s Asian Studies program, which is important for global education and also for the UWRF Strategic Plan.

For sophomore and broad field social studies major Steven Tessier, the Japan Study Tour is a trip that he is greatly looking forward to going on.

“I chose to go to Japan over all the other study options because last semester I went on the China Study Tour with  Yang and enjoyed every moment. So I thought I would go back to Asia and see what else was out there,” said Tessier.

He said the application process was really simple and talking to Yang about the trip and after getting more information about the trip made it even easier.

For Tessier, receiving part of the grant would help significantly.

“We’re college students so we aren’t made of money by any means, so being granted money to go is a huge help,” said Tessier. “I wouldn’t have been able to go without the Japan Foundation’s grant.”

Greene explained that even if the Japan Study Tour is not what one is interested in, there are other programs. He said he makes a difference when it comes to applying for jobs once you graduate college. He said that if there were two people applying for a job with the exact same resume except that one of them studied abroad during their college career, that person would have the advantage.

“They like the fact that you could better relate to other cultures,” said Greene. “You develop a better form of global connection.”

Yang said that he led a study tour to Japan in 2008 but has since suspended the program due to the increase of travel expenses.

“This grant allows me to renew it,” Yang said. “On a personal level, I truly enjoy touring Japan, a country with a unique civilization and amazing landscape, together with my students.”

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