Japan opens for study program

Sean Keister

After the substantial damage caused by the tsunami that ravaged Japan last March, the country is now back open to students in Sacramento State’s study abroad program.

The California State University Chancellor’s Office gave the okay to allow students to study in the country for this fall’s semester, which begins next month.

It was March 11 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a deadly tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people.

The three students from Sac State were in between semesters when the tsunami forced the cancellation of the spring semester. One had already returned to Sacramento, expecting to go back in April. The other two were still in the country, but were ordered out following the tsunami.

There are two separate study abroad programs based in Japan: The California University program, which is hosted at Waseda University in Tokyo and the Sac State program, which is located at Yokohama National University.

The students at Waseda were the closest to the disaster being a few hundred miles away from the most impacted areas of Tokyo.

Lori Harrison, office manager of the Office of Global Education, said she is glad the country is finally reopened for the fall semester after the tragedy since most of the students who choose to study in Japan love it there.

“You can see from going to Japan what a beautiful country it is,” Harrison said. “Both the students I talked to were really disappointed they couldn’t continue.”

She said some students choose to go to Japan again through the other CSU program, effectively spending between a year and a half and two years in the country.

Senior digital media major Jonathan Ducoing is leaving in October for Japan. He was originally scheduled to go to Japan in the spring until the disaster cancelled the program that semester.

“I was disappointed, but I was much more concerned and saddened for the many thousands of Japanese who have been affected by the tsunami,” Ducoing said.

Ducoing said he was very shocked after seeing the video footage of the aftermath of the tsunami.

“I felt like I was watching a disaster movie,” Ducoing said. “The news kept getting worse every few hours.”

Ducoing said he has wanted to travel the world since he was young, but has never left the United States before. He said he saw the travel abroad program as the perfect opportunity for him.

“I choose Japan because I am fascinated by its culture and history,” he said. “Prior to college I knew very little about Japan, but after taking an Asian history class I was inspired to travel to there.”

The country was declared safe following the earthquake and tsunami, but the biggest threat remained with the damage to the nuclear reactors.

Ducoing said he is not worried about traveling to Japan because he said they have done an amazing job recovering from the disaster.

“I am not afraid of being exposed to radiation,” Ducoing said. “They are constantly checking for radiation in the food and water and everything is fine.”

According to the study abroad program’s brochure, students are required to pay for their travel to and from Japan, room and board, books and incidentals. In addition to those fees, students participating are required to have health insurance for the duration of their stay.

Janis Silvers, coordinator for the study abroad program, thinks all students should consider studying abroad because it gives them a whole new perspective on life.

“When students step out of their comfort zone, it’s difficult,” Silvers said. “But when you step away from what you’re used to its when you grow.”

Senior Asian studies major Shane Eakes is going to Japan in April for a five-month stay. He has admired the country and wanted to go for a long time – ever since he started martial arts training five years ago.

“I really love the culture,” Eakes said. “And recently, even more when I started to learn about their expressive language, artwork, cars, the people and their work ethic.”

Eakes said he was devastated when he heard about the disaster in Japan, but said he admired the way the Japanese handled the situation.

“I was impressed about how people reacted and how there was no looting,” he said. “I was moved that even under those circumstances they would still act in such a responsible way.”

Harrison said he sees much change in the confidence level of students, especially the ones who live with their parents.

“When they go there, they don’t have that crutch, and when they come home they have that ‘I can do it’ attitude,” Harrison said.

Eakes said he is happy to know his parents are supportive of his decision to travel.

“It’s touching to have a family that will be there for me in anything I choose to do,” Eakes said.

Ducoing’s parents are supportive of his trip to the east.

“My parents are very happy and excited for me,” Ducoing said. “They aren’t very worried because Japan is such a safe country.”

Silvers said students will be surprised how comfortable they become in their new surroundings.

“Make friends from all over the world,” Silvers said. “Not only with the people in the country they visit, but the other international students as well. Students have made friends and have been invited to spend Christmas with them and their families.”

Ducoing said the study abroad program staff on campus has been extremely helpful and kind as he planned his journey.

“They always seem to have an answer for whatever problem or question I have,” he said. “I would recommend them to anyone who is considering studying abroad.”

Although he said it has been a long process, Ducoing said he is very excited about finally being able to go to Japan.

“I think anyone who is interested in participating in the study abroad program should look it into it,” Ducoing said. “It is an opportunity that won’t last forever.”

Upon arriving in Japan, he said he is most looking forward to all the new experiences Japan has to offer.

“I want to try new foods, meet new friends and learn first-hand about Japanese culture,” Ducoing said.

Friday is the deadline for the spring 2012 program. Dec. 15 is the deadline for the CSU system’s fall 2012 travel abroad program and March 1 for Sac State’s program.