Learning across cultures: Occupational Therapy hosts students from Yamagata, Japan

CSU OT students with students from Yamagata Japan

Story by Diana Purtz

Recently, the Department of Occupational Therapy hosted students and faculty from its sister school in Yamagata, Japan. The week offered excitement along with a diverse mix of educational and experiential activities.

‘Incredible experience’

“What an incredible experience!” said Emily Fawaz, first-year student and a welcoming host for the visitors from Yamagata Prefectural University of Health Sciences.

Marla Roll, assistant professor and director of the Assistive Technology Resource Center, along with five students had the pleasure of visiting and lecturing about assistive technology as a practice area in occupational therapy at YPUHS last August. Roll and the students then planned a YPUHS visit to CSU.

During the week, the visiting students and faculty participated in an occupational performance class where they enjoyed an adult feeding lab and learned about dysphagia. They also toured CSU’s Foothills Campus and explored the topics of occupational therapists’ emerging work with yoga, equine assisted therapy, sleep and brainwaves. One afternoon they enjoyed a game of wheelchair rugby at the Adaptive Recreation Opportunities fieldwork site.

“Hours before the Japanese students arrived, I began to feel a little anxious about how I was going to communicate with them, as they spoke an unknown amount of English. But a few hours later, we were sharing laughs and s’mores around a campfire,” Fawaz shared. “Our communication improved quickly during their time here, with conversations about dogs and sunsets evolving to differences between the roles of occupational therapists in the United States and Japan.”

CSU student hosts

The Japanese students were hosted by CSU OT students, with extracurricular activities including making pizza on the grill, a barbeque at Horsetooth Reservoir, playing games on the oval, learning Japanese hobbies such as origami and exploring various tourist destinations in Fort Collins.

Another host and second-year student Jason Terry shared his experiences, “I had a fantastic time hosting students from Japan! They were so respectful and interested in learning about our culture.”

Roll closed the farewell ceremony emphasizing the importance of this partnership. “I think it is the relationships that matter and will motivate all of us to maintain this wonderful occupational therapy exchange,” Roll said. “Perhaps the exchange between our programs can lead us all to become better occupational therapists – Meeting a more global society’s need for occupational therapy across cultures and countries.”

Partnership since 2002

The partnership between these two schools has been ongoing since its establishment in 2002 thanks to the participation of many faculty, staff and students. More information regarding this partnership is available on the Occupational Therapy website.

The Department of Occupational Therapy is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.