TTU sends first ever study group to Japan's Dohto University

A Tennessee Tech University professor and 10 students were more than 6,500 miles away from home for 27 days recently, but they weren’t lost.

They were members of the first ever local study group to visit Dohto University, TTU’s sister institution in Northern Japan, and this week, TTU welcomes a three-week student tour from Dohto, one of several to visit here since the two institutions began collaborating.

The two universities have teamed up for some time to offer an international online course each year that enables students from both universities to work together virtually, but the visit to Japan provided even greater opportunities for cultural exchange and for enhancing the collaborative relationship.

“I felt that we made very good progress with our goals on this trip,” said Jeff Plant, TTU’s housing and design professor who led the tour and was an instructor for the most recent international course.

“Our students all served as wonderful ambassadors of TTU, and I believe we cultivated and enhanced our relationship with the Dohto administration in ways that will build positively on the tradition and commitment that already exists,” he continued.

Dohto University President Masanori Sakurai shared Plant’s enthusiasm about the visit when he welcomed the TTU group to the Japanese campus. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to host the very first group of students from Tennessee Tech University,” he said.

Coordinated through TTU’s International Affairs Office, the study tour provided once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for participants to witness day-to-day life in Japan and to learn about Japanese culture, language and history.

“I can say without hesitation that I know it’s been worth the effort to experience a new people, new culture and new life different from our own halfway around the world,” Plant told Dohto administrators in a “graduation” ceremony held for the TTU study group before its return home.

“We will know differently, we will see things differently and we will understand life in a new manner because of meeting you,” he continued.

Highlights of the group’s experiences include a visit to a Buddhist temple, a Japanese-style barbeque picnic that was called a “walk in the forest,” a five-day home stay with a Japanese family, demonstrations of the koto harp and shakuhachi flute and extensive lessons in katakana, hiragana and kanji, which collectively make up the Japanese language.

“By being immersed in the Japanese culture — living, eating and sleeping in it for 27 days — I think we were fortunate to get a much better understanding of that culture than someone would get, for example, on a three-day business trip,” Plant said.

Although each participant of the study tour gravitated toward his or her individual preferences, Plant said he thought everyone shared a new appreciation for Japanese traditions and the beauty of the country’s landscape.

“We talked among ourselves, sent e-mail messages home and kept written journals. We speak well of our experiences both individually and as a group because we know and appreciate the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we have experienced,” Plant told the Dohto administration.

The trip also helped administrators from the two universities facilitate discussion about three possible international online course offerings, as well as the possibility for future student exchange programs and maybe even a teaching exchange program.

“We’d especially like to recognize the hospitality of Chancellor Jun Sakurai, President Masanori Sakurai, International Affairs Director Noriaki Okajima, long-time contact Tosh Sakabe and all the Dohto faculty and give a special thanks to TTU International Affairs Director Charlie Wilkerson and the staff in his office,” Plant said.

TTU’s International Community Hospitality Association can provide information about hosting a home stay for a Dohto student during the coming visit. For more information, call Katie Kumar at 931/372-3371.