Learning in Action Yamagata Prefectural University of Health Sciences International Exchange Program
A cultural exchange that goes above and beyond your expectations.
That’s how our students commonly describe the relationship with our sister school, Yamagata Prefectural University of Health Sciences in Yamagata, Japan. The relationship between our department and YPUHS was established in 2002 and to this day continues to thrive.
Nestled in the mountains of northern Japan, YPUHS is a four-year university that houses students who are pursuing a future career in either occupational therapy, physical therapy or nursing. Each year, a small group of our students with a member of our faculty travel across the pacific to Yamagata for one week. In return, a group of students and faculty from YPUHS come to visit us each spring. The bond between the two universities was created in an effort to pave the way for visits between the two schools and to mutually enhance the understanding of each other’s culture while promoting the practice of occupational therapy.
The week in which our friends from Yamagata come to visit us is one that is highly anticipated each year. Faculty, staff and students get involved in welcoming our visitors to our department and showing them around the campus and the Fort Collins community. YPUHS students and faculty attend classes, participate in fun American traditions and share their unique perspectives and experiences of being an occupational therapy student or practitioner in Japan. Overall the week is a celebration of our relationship with each other.
When a few people from our department recently traveled to Japan, each day was packed full of activities and new learning experiences. A cornerstone of the visit was the opportunity to learn more about the differences between occupational therapy in Japan compared to the United States. The group was able to visit a skilled nursing facility, a hospital and the school itself to observe and learn about how occupational therapy is taught and practiced in Japan. At the skilled nursing facility, they were greeted by residents waving the American flag in one hand and the Japanese flag in the other. In addition to a tour, they participated in a group occupational therapy session with the residents in which they decorated traditional Japanese fans. This was an educational experience that was a highlight for everyone.
However, it is truly an exchange. CSU visitors shared their knowledge and experience by presenting on a variety of topics including meaningful occupation, sleep and rest, resilience of student veterans and their persistence in post-secondary education and occupational therapy in the United States.
Other activities of the week included multiple group excursions around the area. Each day had something new and exciting including being taught how to make Japanese food, learning a traditional dance, singing karaoke and walking up 1001 steps to visit a mountain temple. Each experience was made special by the kindness and hospitality of the YPUHS faculty and students.
Everyone shared that this experience is something they will never forget. Many reported being touched by the kindness of their hosts treating them like family and sparing no expense to make them feel comfortable. Every year new connections are made and lifelong friendships are created. Some still keep in contact with the friends they made during the exchange through letters and social media. Gifts are displayed in their homes reminding them of the extraordinary people they met in Japan.
This exchange is something that is truly special and unique to CSU-OT. Everyone takes away more than the few words they are taught of the Japanese language. Because of this opportunity to either travel to Japan or participate in the week of festivities in Colorado, they learn about a culture different than their own. Ultimately this experience makes us better occupational therapy practitioners since we often learn the most from those who are different than ourselves.