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 continues to thrive to this day.
Nestled in the mountains of northern Japan, YPUHS is a four-year university that houses students who are pursuing a future career in occupational therapy, physical therapy, or nursing. Each year, a small group of CSU-OT students and 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 internationally.
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.
Likewise, when students and faculty from our department travel to Japan, each day is packed full of activities and new learning experiences. A cornerstone of the visit is the opportunity to learn more about the differences between occupational therapy in Japan compared to the United States. Students are able to experience Japanese occupational therapy facilities and tour the school itself to observe and learn about how occupational therapy is taught and practiced in Japan. Specifically, students and faculty have the opportunity to visit different occupational therapy settings such as a mental health facility and skilled nursing / tiered living facility. This is an incredible educational experience that is a highlight for everyone who has the opportunity to go.
Nevertheless, it is truly an exchange. CSU visitors not only learn about Japanese perspectives of occupational therapy, but are able to share their knowledge and experience of occupational therapy in the United States by presenting on a variety of topics over the week. In the past, such topics have ranged from aging in place to learning through play in early childhood settings, meaningful occupation, sleep and rest, post-concussion return to play in athletes, cancer rehabilitation, therapeutic grief and occupational therapy in the United States.
Other activities during the week include multiple group excursions around the area. Each day, the CSU visitors experience the Japanese culture through home stays and other events such as social visits, visiting a local temple, participating in a tea ceremony, cooking traditional Japanese foods and learning a traditional Japanese dance. Each experience is made special by the kindness and hospitality of the YPUHS faculty and students.
Each year, CSU occupational therapy students share that this experience is something they will never forget. Many report 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 many people’s 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, CSU-OT students are able to 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.