A few weeks before the fall semester got under way, a group of Fresno State students and faculty embarked on a memorable journey to the other side of the Pacific Ocean – to Japan to be exact. The purpose of the interdisciplinary study abroad trip was to expose students, from a variety of majors, to Japanese cultural, educational and health care practices.


Students that participated came from a wide range of majors, including kinesiology, nursing, physical therapy, social work, liberal studies, anthropology and civil engineering. In addition to Fresno State students, there was also one student from University High School and one nursing alumna who took part. Faculty members, Dr. Peggy Trueblood and Dr. Leslie Zarrinkhameh (Physical Therapy) and Dr. Nancy Nisbett (Recreation Administration) also made the weeklong trek, serving as the faculty advisers.

The group was able to visit three separate cities in Japan over the course of seven days, including Tokyo, Niigata and Kyoto. During their trip, they visited educational institutions, historical and cultural sites, and many other attractions. In Tokyo, the group received an introduction to Japan by the staff at Sophia University.

“We had a city tour and visited historical and cultural sites, such as the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower and the Meiji Shrine,” Trueblood said. “One of the highlights while in Tokyo was a session on acupuncture by Mr. Keinosuke Hoshi from Tokyo. Students and faculty practiced different types of massage including Anma, Masseji, Shiatsu and learned about Moxibustian, a form of heat therapy used in Japan, in which dried plant material called ‘moxa’ are burned on or very near the surface of the skin.”


In Niigata, they met with the president of Niigata University Health and Welfare and had the opportunity to tour the University, including their numerous research laboratories. Several faculty provided lectures on health care and long-term care plan in Japan. Tours of several hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and long-term care facilities in Niigata were also given.

“This experience allowed me to observe the challenges and differences that patients and physical therapists experience in Japan vs. America, and even more specifically, Niigata vs. Fresno,” said Kelly Hosey, who is majoring in physical therapy.

The group also had the opportunity to visit Dr. Masaru Kanda, a 2005 alumnus from the Physical Therapy program at Fresno State, who now lives in Niigata. Throughout the study abroad trip, the students had the opportunity to interact with the Japanese students while visiting several attractions, including a baseball game at Shibata and dining at SAKE Brewery tour and the Japanese Bath House.


“Making professional connections is a benefit for yourself, your patient and your discipline,” said Ariel Garnica, a second-year physical therapy student. “Connecting with different people allows for the learning of new things and opens one’s mind to outside opinion. Not only is it professionally beneficial by creating new friendships. Language barriers can be overcome and friendships can be made despite cultural differences.”


In the city of Kyoto, also known as Osaka, the group was able to visit some additional cultural and historical sites such as the Golden Pavilion and Osaka Castle.

Trueblood knew this international experience would positively impact the students.

“The exposure to another country’s health care firsthand is a lifetime experience that you would never get from reading a textbook,” Trueblood said. “It increases their knowledge about world cultures and teaches students to adapt to different situations. I think it is healthy for students to get out of their comfort zone and experience things they have never experienced before. It teaches them to respect differences in people and to have a better perspective and understanding.”


Upon returning to the the states, students were required to turn in a post trip presentation, in which the students expressed their experiences.

“Of all the things I will take from this experience, the friendships I have made along the way will be what I hold onto forever,” said Clayton McDonald, who is majoring in kinesiology. “Each and every one I met has had a tremendous impact on my life in just the nine days of knowing one another.”

Chi Chang, who is majoring in both criminology and anthropology, said the trip was a life changing.

“Traveling to Japan has opened up my eyes about lots of things culturally, historically and medically,” Chang said.

-Story written by Sierra Frank, CHHS Communications Student Assistant