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MCLA students in Japan

Above, the students take advantage of a photo opportunity with a Japanese samari. Below, at a traditional Japanese-style home with history professor Dr. Kailai Huang (far right), who teaches the travel course and led the students on the trip.

Journey to Japan Inspires Students


Kelsey McGonigle ’15 of Long Island, N.Y., never imagined herself in Japan. That’s exactly why she decided to go there.

A business administration major with a concentration in international business, McGonigle said the opportunity, made possible through the MCLA travel study course she took this semester, was the experience of a lifetime.

“The trip, overall, was one of the best experiences I’ve had here at MCLA,” she said.

McGonigle said she was in awe of what she saw as the group traveled from site to site. “It was just amazing to see a place where people cared so much about the place they were living."

Students in JapanNagasaki and Tokyo were among McGonigle’s favorites. “While we were in Nagasaki, we went to the National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, and to the Atomic Bomb Museum. Both were very moving sites,” she explained.

“At the Peace Memorial, we met a man who survived the atomic bomb. He told us of his experiences. He saw people’s clothes literally being burned from their skin, and told us how hard it was for him to find food afterward, and the way that everything vanished in an instant. Speaking with him put into perspective the reality and horrific events of what happened on that day.” 

It was experiences like that, and others, which allowed history and education major Anthony Corbett ’17 of Dalton, Mass., to learn a great deal about Japan and its history. He aims to become an international teacher.

“I figured I had better start seeing the world,” he said. “I chose Japan because I’ve always been interested in its history and natural, beautiful landscapes.”

In Kyoto, the students took a cable car to the top of Mount Hieizan, to see the ancient Enryakuji Temple. Traveling in a bullet train, or Shinkansen, that they took from Kumamoto to Tokyo, they enjoyed a sweeping view of Mount Fuji.

“Then, there were the views from the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree, two massive towers in Tokyo from which you can see as far as Mount Fuji,” Corbett said.

Other highlights of the trip included a traditional Japanese bathhouse, or Onsen, in Fukuoka, as well as a traditional hotel and Japanese style dinner in Kumamoto, and a visit to Kumamoto Castle.

Joshua Farland ’16 of Sturbridge, Mass., who is majoring in fine and performing arts with an art minor and a concentration in music, took the opportunity to be immersed in Japanese culture.

“Japanese culture is very polite, courteous and respectful. The country is very clean. They really have great respect for the environment. There is a lot of growth in Japanese society. At the same time, they maintain ancient traditions,” Farland said.

Because he’d wanted to visit Japan since the age of 14, the experience was a “dream come true” for Farland. He particularly enjoyed a visit to Kyoto, where he learned more about the history and ancient traditions of Japanese culture, as well as a visit to the International Manga Museum in Kyoto.

“I enjoy drawing, and one day would like to illustrate and create my own manga (comic book) materials,” Farland said. “Participating in this travel course provided educational opportunities and cultural experiences that I would have never had otherwise.”

Corbett added that the opportunity to enjoy Japan with his classmates was crucial to the trip’s success. “Without them, it would have been just me, wandering around Japan. What really made the trip was the great company.”