Monday, July 8, 2013
Postcards from Abroad:
UNO Students Spend Summer Abroad in Japan
UNO-Japan students pose in front of the Osaka castle. Osaka is near Kyoto, is Japan's
third largest city, and one of its nicknames is "The Nation's Kitchen." On the field
trip, students visited museums, castles, the bustling city center and an observatory.
They also ate okonomiyaki for lunch.
UNO-Japan students visit the Ginkakuji complex on the Kyoto field trip. Ginkakuji
is an important destination for people interested in the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi.
Nearly two dozen University of New Orleans undergraduate students recently spent five
weeks studying in Kyoto, Japan, more than six thousand miles from campus.
"This is our fifth year bringing UNO students to Kyoto, an experience that gives UNO
students the opportunity to study in the Far East, and it is the only one of its kind
in Louisiana," said Mary Hicks, program director of the UNO-Japan: Study at Doshisha
University program. "We like to boast that our students come away from this program
with not only knowledge, but also a deeper understanding of Japan and its language,
culture, and people."
Professor Linda Blanton, academic director on the program, adds, "I would also argue
that students benefit in so many more ways that cannot be quantified. They leave New
Orleans with an open mind and an open heart, which are subsequently filled with such
things as a sense of self in the world, self-confidence, lifelong friendships, and
a love of learning that hopefully will last a lifetime."
The undergraduates arrived May 26 in Kyoto, an ancient city that for more than 1,000
years served as the imperial capital of Japan. As one of the oldest and most famous
cities in Asia, Kyoto boasts more than 2,000 ancient shrines and temples, as well
as serene parks, bustling business districts and sundry street markets. Students stayed
in a residence hall and study in classrooms at Doshisha University, the program's
host institution, until June 29. Doshisha is a prestigious private university that
has educated Japanese students for nearly 150 years and UNO students are housed and
educated on the University's uptown or "Imadegawa" campus.
Classes and Coursework
The UNO-Japan program's origins can be traced back to Professor Noriko Ito Krenn,
of the UNO Honors Program. Krenn is a graduate of Doshisha University and was assigned
by the director of the UNO Honors Program and director of the Division of International
Education to find a way to offer study abroad opportunities for UNO's Honors Students.
Krenn now serves as Associate Director of the UNO-Japan program and provides a crucial
link between UNO and Doshisha, as well as the Honors Program and the Division of International
On the UNO-Japan program, each participant takes two classes, for a total of six credit
hours, and honors options are available, Hicks said. This year, the program offers
two English classes, a history class and three Japanese language classes: Basic Japanese
I, Basic Japanese II and Intermediate Japanese II.
English classes are designed to help students more deeply understand Japanese lore
and culture. In one course, "Geisha and Other Icons: Exploring Japanese Culture and
Ghosts," students explore iconic themes of Japan's cultural past though memoirs and
biography in the classroom or library, then gather field observations during walking
tours, dance performances,and visits to historic gardens, and interaction with local
Japanese people. In the other, called "Ghosts, Monsters and Spirits: Horror and the
Uncanny in a Japanese Context," students focus on Japan's rich literary history of
ghosts, spirits, demons, monsters and other "supernatural" beings captured in Japanese
prose, narrative, film and theater.
The history class, entitled "Mad Monks and Machiya: A Cultural History of Kyoto,"
takes a close look at Kyoto's role as an important cultural center and major urban
area, tracking how the city's cultural, political and economic roles changed as the
nation's political center shifted east to Tokyo. Students will explore representations
of the old capital and its inhabitants in literature, painting, theater, food, religion
and other cultural categories – and take a closer look at political, social, economic
and international exchange developments – while enjoying in-class field trips to the
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Shôkokuji Temple and museums.
Time for Travel
Classes at Doshisha run Monday through Friday, leaving weekends wide open for exploration.
On three Saturdays, the students enjoy field trips organized by UNO's Division of
International Education. The first takes students around the city of Kyoto to see
primary sites the students should not miss, such as Nijo Castle, Ginkaku Temple and
Kiyomizu Temple, said Hicks.
The second is to the nearby big city of Osaka, Japan's third largest city, where students
see such sites as the Floating Garden Observatory, Osaka Castle and the Osaka Museum
of History. They also enjoy a lunch of "okonomiyaki," a popular pancake-like dish
made of flour, egg and other ingredients and topped with pork, squid, shrimp -- or
some combination that is the diner's favorite -- "or other delicious ingredients,"
On the third Saturday, students visited Nara, a small city and ancient Japanese capital
known for its rolling hills and serene countryside. The ancient Japanese capital is
an important site for Zen Buddhism and the indigenous Japanese religion of Shinto,
said Hicks. In Nara, free-roaming deer meander unchecked through city streets and
central parks – and on Saturday, "every year, our students enjoyed feeding them,"
The field trip to Nara "is more of 'old Japan' than the other two trips, although
'old Japan' surrounds us here in Kyoto," said Hicks in correspondence.
"Tomodachi" Means "Friend"
Another unique component of the UNO-Japan experience is called the "Tomodachi Program."
The program pairs UNO-Japan undergraduate students with local Doshisha students who
volunteer to have lunch and "hang out" with UNO students, practicing language skills
at lunchtime and touring the city during free time.
Tomodachi means "friend" in Japanese.
"It really is an invaluable way to deepen our students' experience here in Japan,"
said Hicks, "and provides a vehicle for them to really connect with Japanese culture