Culture in Context: China and Japan Trimester Study Abroad Program
Why Spend a Trimester Abroad With MEI?
Imagine climbing along the Great Wall of China, learning about the ingenuity of the Chinese people who built the ‘10,000 mile long wall’ to defend their borders and culture from invading nomadic groups. Imagine walking beneath the towering, neon-lit skyscrapers of Hong Kong on your way to class overlooking the Victoria Harbour, or tracing your way through the serene temple gardens in Kyoto, Japan. MEI’s China & Japan Trimester program gives students the opportunity to explore two North Asian powerhouses that, while close in proximity, diverge greatly in culture and tradition. The 50-day duration of the trimester program allows students to participate in the production of impressive media projects in the teeming cities of Beijing and Tokyo, and reflect on the themes of war and recovery in Hong Kong and Hiroshima. On the scenic side, students will be amazed by the Japanese countryside as they ride high speed trains with natural vistas and a snowcapped Mount Fuji in the distance.
Students choose either World Issues or Economics
World Issues – Grade 12
This program provides students with a foundation in the sociopolitical structure of the region and a more holistic understanding of a rapidly changing Asia within the larger global context. By studying literature from a wide variety of sources, students refine their analytical, critical and communication skills while gaining a broader perspective of the impact of globalization, conflict and developmental sustainability in our world.
Economics: Analyzing Current Economic Issues – Grade 12
This course investigates the nature of the competitive global economy and explores how individuals and societies can gain the information they need to make appropriate economic decisions. Students will learn about the principles of microeconomics and macroeconomics, apply economic models and concepts to interpret economic information, assess the validity of statistics and investigate marketplace dynamics.
English – Grade 12
The core English course focuses on the refinement of literacy, communication and analytical skills. Students build on their understanding of academic language and practise using it confidently in discussion and argumentation both in oral and written forms.
Students can substitute Studies in Literature – Grade 12
Media Studies – Grade 12
The focus of this program is on providing students with hands-on experience with photography, video production, investigative journalism and media analysis. Students study various media techniques in photography and film production and develop the ability to communicate effectively using language and images. Throughout their journey, students create a portfolio showcasing their work.
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Prep Session 1: Early January, 2019
Flight and hotel details are available on individual program sites, available to registered students and their parents.
Preparation and Course Work
In order to ease into the program, students have access to the course website where reading lists will be posted. Course preparation is spread out over three weeks: our first week of preparation begins in mid-January, focusing on novel studies; the second two-week session begins in late January, focusing on completing small assignments. These online sessions are designed to connect students with their teachers and classmates, to help complete short tasks, and to alleviate the workload during the trip. Students are required to complete all foundation work prior to leaving to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running while overseas.
Departure From Toronto (Day 1)
Our North American departure hub is Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. Five hours prior to our departure, a short meeting will be held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Terminal 3, to distribute course packs and maps and to clarify travel procedures. All students are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to the Sheraton Gateway Hotel. Students making alternate arrangements must contact MEI before November 30.
Beijing (Day 2–9)
In Beijing, students venture into the heart of the People’s Republic of China, tracing the steps of emperors through the Forbidden City and discussing the teachings of Chairman Mao as they cross Tiananmen Square. Beijing is the perfect location to begin the study of two core themes that frame our World Issues and Economics courses: the contrast between the east and the west and the relationship between communism and capitalism. Students begin their photography and filmmaking component as they survey the complex history and modern contradictions of the People’s Republic, making their way through the city’s bustling markets and hutongs, and hiking along the legendary Great Wall.
Hong Kong (Day 9–16)
In Hong Kong, students witness how British colonialism and Chinese tradition have given rise to a wholly unique culture. Amidst the labyrinth of skyscrapers, we immerse ourselves in a world of contrasts from the lively Tsim Sha Tsui district to the serene Tian Tan Buddha. Exploring the city’s fusion, students witness east meeting west and the realities of economic globalization. A visit to the Hong Kong History Museum frames the context of Hong Kong’s current position both politically and economically on the global stage, and students learn about the up and down relationship between China and nearby Japan. An excursion out of the city sees the class hiking along lush forest paths until they reach a white sand escape for a beach day—a welcomed reprieve from the frenetic days spent in Beijing and Hong Kong.
Hiroshima and Miyajima (Day 16–26)
From Hong Kong, we travel northeast to Hiroshima, our first stop in Japan. Here, students pay their respects to those who perished from the atomic bomb dropped during World War II at the beautiful Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Students reflect on the resilience of the Japanese people and develop creative pieces on war and memory to be shared during podcast performances. Largely destroyed by the bomb, Hiroshima has revived itself to a city filled with art and culture, and students have the opportunity to delve deeper into their investigation of photography with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Only an hour away from Hiroshima is Miyajima and the Itsukushima Shrine. Famous for the Torii Gates, Miyajima is also home to one of the three most famous views in Japan.
Osaka (Day 26–31)
From Hiroshima, we take a bullet train to Osaka where we explore the marine-life aquarium and the Osaka Castle. On a day off, students may decide to kick back on some amusement park rides at Universal Studios or visit the subterranean National Museum of Art. Students’ night photography will pop after an evening spent walking along the Dōtonbori, a canal from Dōtonboribashi Bridge to Nipponbashi Bridge in the Namba district. A mix of Venice and New York’s Times Square, this part of Osaka is filled with canals adjacent to giant, colorful billboards and advertisements.
Kyoto (Day 31–35)
A quick journey from Osaka will see the class arriving in Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan. Known to North Americans for the failed Kyoto Protocol, Kyoto is the perfect location to delve into the complexities of climate change. Students will come to understand how world leaders felt the need to back out of the agreement, while also exploring possible solutions to create a more sustainable future. The City of Ten Thousand Shrines, Kyoto teems with Buddhist temples, Zen gardens, palaces, and traditional wooden bridges and homes. Amid its beauty is the opportunity for students to learn more about a traditional form of performance art by female Japanese, known as Geisha. Debates about entertainment versus art lends well to our discussions on gender equality around the world. Likely to be a highlight of the program, Kyoto will be remembered forever by students’ photo essay and journalism pieces, a day trip to Nara, and the cuisine!
Takayama and Nagoya (Day 35–44)
After Kyoto, things slow down as the class has the opportunity to delve into some of their English work. Interspersing morning lessons with afternoon hikes and evening writing workshops will see the class leaving their time in Takayama with a completed essay and rewrite, as well as some creative writing to share at the next podcast.
Following a short stay in Takayama, the class journeys south to the coast where they reside in the city of Nagoya. A visit to the Toyota museum makes for interesting discussions about importing and exporting vehicles around the world, and the notion of progress traps, as students weigh the pros and cons of the internal combustion engine in modern societies.
Tokyo (Day 44–50)
Japan’s bustling capital city of Tokyo is the last stop on our journey through China and Japan. A swirl of traditional and modern worlds, students will love exploring the neon-lit streets with towering skyscrapers and anime shops, as well as the opportunity to unwind at serene parks dotted with temples and cherry trees. Students visit sites like Shibuya crossing - the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world - and the lively Roppongi and Harajuku neighborhoods, filled with unique and ultramodern fashion. Over meals of Japanese BBQ and bowls of shabu shabu, students will reflect on their time in Asia in preparation for their Independent Study Unit interviews. After their final exams, students bid a fond farewell from atop the Tokyo Tower overlooking the city and celebrate the time they spent together before preparing for the long journey home.
Travel dates subject to change.
All prices include international student fees.
- Ministry-approved credit(s) upon successful completion of the course(s)
- Custom course pack
- Student Login
- MEI journal
- Digital yearbook
- Hotels and accommodations
- Breakfast and dinner daily
- Entrance fees to all course-specific sites
- Return airfare from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport
- Transportation between hotel locations via private coach
- Transportation for all listed program excursions
- Travel Visas
- All airline taxes, charges and fees
- Registration fee
- Course texts
- Medical Insurance and Cancellation Protection*
*All students travelling with MEI Academy are required to purchase Medical Insurance.
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