Thanks to the Woods Around The World program, student travelers at William Woods University are seemingly bound only by their imagination when it comes to seeing the far reaches of the globe. Dreams of experiencing cultures only read about in books or seen in movies have become reality for scores of WWU Students since 2008, when WATW first began offering international and educational trips abroad. This program has now brought students to all seven of the world’s continents, with an Antarctica trip checking off the last continent last year.
The latest excursion was to the Land of the Rising Sun. From March 2nd – 11th, 22 William Woods travelers (17 of them students,) visited Japan, experiencing a culture substantially different from what they were used to. From the city to being out in nature, students had a taste of different ways of life even within Japan by visiting the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto.
Japanese culture proved to be a big change from what William Woods students are used to in the Midwest, and even different than other countries they have visited. The locals made the transition easy though, as everyone the travelers met were kind and happy to help.
“I have traveled through Woods Around the World to Galapagos, Ecuador, India, and now Japan. On my own I have traveled to Italy, Germany, Denmark, Australia, England, and the Netherlands. Japan was unique because it was the cultural opposite of the United States and everything I’m used to. It really pushed my boundaries, but in a good way,” said Megan Brown ’19.
“The culture was so different, everyone was quiet and polite. I think I heard a car honk maybe one time while I was there, while you hear cars honking all the time here,” said Ben Schmiemeier ’20. “They wanted you to have a successful trip and feel at home in their country.”
“I am blonde and tall so I really stuck out,” said Tori Wiley BS ’18 MBA ‘19. “It was eye-opening how different places can be when you start to travel and see people other than those who live around you. There were also a lot of different customs. For instance, the Japanese do not eat and walk around at the same time, so you have to think if you grab a snack, where you are going to eat it. I wanted to make sure I was not disrespecting their culture at any time.”
Activities planned for the trip and guided by Tour Director, Keiko, and the group also had free time where they could explore themselves. These activities included visiting Nara Park, the Todaiji Temple, the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, Hakone National Park, learning to make sushi, and enjoying a variety of meals.
“We had more free time on this trip than I think previous Woods Around the World trips have had,” said Nina McKee ’19. “A group of us went to a Digital Art Museum on one of our free days. It was an interactive experience. They would have lights and music set up. One of them rooms was filled with water up to your knees that they projected fish onto.”
Schmiemeier and Brown also visited this museum on their free day and named it as one of the most unique experiences in Japan.
Members of the William Woods party had different reasons for wanting to visit Japan and all came away with different takeaways.
“It was amazing seeing the cultural difference. In a bigger city we could use the metro in Tokyo and we took a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. There were different modes of transportation and different foods,” said McKee. “I wanted to go to Japan because I am really interested in their pop culture. I also had time to do Project 123 this year.”
“There will be things you do not expect to find when you are visiting a country, but they can be some of the best experiences,” said Schmiemeier.
“Being able to see a culture outside of the United States, and especially one so diverse was great,” said McKee. “We also got to see different cultures even within Japan, since we saw Tokyo and Kyoto which were quite different.”
“What I really enjoy about these trips is that you go with a group from your school and you have an itinerary. Project 123 also makes them so affordable,” said Wiley. “Japan was a big one for me because it was my sixth continent I have now visited and I’ve been on a Woods Around the World trip every year I’ve been here.”
For more on the Woods Around The World program, please visit https://www.williamwoods.edu/student_experience/undergraduate_student_experience/multicultural_opportunities/woods_around_the_world.html