Tiffany Yue is a member of the Track & Field team. She is currently studying Biology and Anthropolgy.
For two weeks this summer, I traveled around Japan as part of a study abroad program exploring topics in public health, community organization, and culture. Our group from UGA had the opportunity to meet and work with Japanese university students and members of local communities, and through these collaborations I gained so much insight into Japanese life and society. Throughout our trip, we also took part in various fun and exciting activities, and visited places of historical and cultural significance. When I think back on it now, just being there, interacting with locals and being a part of the day-to-day happenings of the cities we were in, taught me more about Japan than I could have ever imagined, and that was an experience I know I could only get from studying abroad.
Our trip began in the city of Kosai, in south-central Japan, where we worked with Japanese students from nearby Shizuoka University of Arts and Culture. We then travelled (by bullet train!) to Kumamoto, in southern Japan, to work with students at Kumamoto University. While preparing for presentations on our ideas, we got to speak with mayors, city officials, and local businesspeople, and I found it very interesting to hear what the people there were concerned with. In both places, the main goals residents had for their cities were unifying their communities, increasing accessibility to local resources, and promoting tourist interest in the areas. The UGA students, as Americans, were able to offer new perspectives on these issues, and being able to combine our ideas with those of the Japanese students to provide a cross-cultural solution was so rewarding and unique, and both groups learned a great deal.
When we weren’t working, we visited many shrines and temples, gardens, lakes, and even a Japanese amusement park! One of my favorite excursions was a night fishing trip we took on Lake Hamana. We got to see the city lights along with all the stars, and we didn’t just catch fish- there were octopi, squids, eels, and crabs too! The place that I’ll remember the most, though, was the Hiroshima Peace Museum, which we went to on one of our last days in Japan. Being in the city of Hiroshima and seeing how it has rebuilt in the aftermath of the bomb was powerful in and of itself, but the museum really opened my eyes to the bombing’s long-lasting effects on not only Hiroshima, but on Japan as well. It was a place I hadn’t really thought of visiting before, but that I am beyond grateful I did.
This study abroad program exceeded every expectation I had, and I only wish that it had been longer. Even in two weeks, though, I feel like I got to see and experience a side of Japan that most ordinary tourists never do, and that’s what made this trip absolutely unforgettable!