By Jenna Ratzlaff – Horizon News & Features Editor
In just 21 days, 11 students, four community members, three instructors, and two children will immerse themselves into the culture of “The Land of the Rising Sun.”
Led by instructors Andre Swartley, Kate Swartley, and Heidi Hochstetler, the group will depart from the Wichita airport May 17, arriving in Tokyo May 18.
The group will visit Hiroshima, Kagoshima, Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo.
“I hope the students gain insight and empathy for a new (to them) culture, as well as an expanded understanding of their own cultures and origin,” Swartley said
For the first 10 days the group will spend their time in Hiroshima. They’ll explore a local supermarket, Hiroshima Peace Park, and hear testimony from an atomic bomb survivor.
The group will also take a language and culture class. Hesston students will meet with student learning partners at Hiroshima Shudo University and learn how to read all three Japanese phonetic syllabaries: Hiragana, Katakana, and Romaji.
After the 10 days is up, the group will move on to Kagoshima. Every two days after that the group will continue to move until they arrive at their final destination, Tokyo.
During their time of travel, the groups will stay with host families in Osaka and Tokyo.
“Staying in host homes is a common requirement for cross-cultural experiences. In all of my own travels as a college student, host families both in the US and abroad were always the best windows into local culture and making human connections,” Swartley said
The group will also connect with HC Alumni and make new friends during their homestays in Osaka, Nara, and Tokyo.
Sophomore Mika Matsuda will host two students during the trip.
“I am excited for them to experience a whole new culture other than their own. I am especially excited to eat dinner with them after their day of adventures, and hear all about what they experienced,” Matsuda said.
As the group travels through each city, they will visit different UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each site is a natural area or structure that represents international importance, therefore deserving special protection.
This is the first Japan May term at Hesston College. Swartley hopes to run the program every two years (opposite the European Chorale tour).
Each student in the program will receive four credits of transferable study-abroad coursework.
They also walk away with a much broader worldview.
“Travel makes a person’s world both larger and smaller,” Swartley said. “Travel creates new insight on one’s own culture and empathy for others.”