CLEMSON — While many college students are sunning themselves on beaches in late March, 23 Clemson University scholars will be exposed to the Land of the Rising Sun during spring break, thanks to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Japanese diplomats from Washington and Atlanta visited Clemson recently to announce the Kakehashi Project, a youth exchange program between Japan and the U.S. The program will fund travel and lodging expenses for the 23 students, representing various majors, to visit Japan for 10 days during spring break.
“The Kakeshashi Project is a great cross-cultural education opportunity for our students to learn more about the Japanese brand and gain an understanding of the country’s cultural and economic impact,” said Helen Diamond Steele, director of the College of Business Office of Student Enrichment.
The Kakehashi (“Bridge”) Project is a Japan-U.S. program initiated in 2013 that promotes greater understanding between Japanese and American students and nurtures an interest in international relations while advocating the many positives that Japan brings to bear.
Steele and John Hannon, College of Business lecturer, who has lived and taught courses in Japan, will lead the study abroad trip. Hannon is teaching a three-credit class this semester to prepare students for their spring break trip.
Beyond studying the Japanese business world from an entrepreneurial perspective, students are exposed to the Japanese culture and basics of the language. Several guest speakers have presented to the class, including Japanese business expatriates and government representatives.
“For many of the students this will be a significant cultural adjustment, so we are spending some of our pre-trip time on the history and etiquette of Japan,” Hannon said. “Students have started personal journals, which they will build out during the trip. After returning, we’ll debrief to share what we saw and learned.”
While in Japan, students will be immersed in the Japanese way of life and visit various universities, museums, shrines and businesses as part of the study abroad experience.
The Japanese dignitaries who visited Clemson to announce the trip and discuss business cooperation between the U.S. and Japan were Takashi Shinozuka, consul general for the Consulate of Japan in Atlanta; Atsushi Yamakoshi, executive director, Japan Business Federation, Washington, D.C.; and Norikazu Mori, chief executive director of JETRO, a Japanese business organization in Atlanta.
Steele said the delegation stressed the importance of building a cultural and economic bridge between the U.S. and Japan, and bringing the next generation of American business leaders to Japan is one step in accomplishing that.
“They believe the younger generation in Japan can learn something from their U.S. counterparts, who they said were more adventurous and open to being active in countries other than their homeland,” Steele said. “They are very enthusiastic about exposing the many business and cultural opportunities Japan offers to America’s younger generations. Our group of students is just as excited about the experiences that await them.”
Emma Dilworth is a junior accounting major who has made two study abroad trips to Europe. She is eagerly anticipating what new perspectives she will gain from a trip to Asia.
“I’m sure it will be eye-opening and give me a better understanding of the cultures in business and of the people in general,” she said. “The home-stay aspect of the trip allows us into the home of a Japanese family. That is something I’m really looking forward to.”
Rick Uhlmann is with the College of Business at Clemson University.