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Building Exchange with Japan

Over winter break Laura Bowe, Director of Global Education, and Micah Hauben, Dean of Athletics, traveled to Japan in preparation for upcoming student travel programs. The experience helped to cultivate existing relationships with peer schools and explored additional opportunities for King’s Global Education and Athletics programs.

Their trip is part of a program that was set in motion in May 2021, when Gilles Chosson, World Language Faculty, and Bowe began a virtual exchange with Meizen High School in Kurume, Japan, as part of a special end-of-year enrichment opportunity. Meizen is one of the only prefectural high schools in its area with “Sogo Bunka,” which allows students to specialize in humanities courses. 

Helping to facilitate the exchange, Dana Thomas, Associate Director of Admission at King School, introduced Chosson and Bowe to her former colleague Motoko Uehara, who teaches English and coordinates international exchange at Meizen.

King School

After discussing possible opportunities for the schools to collaborate, the relationship evolved into a student-led club in September 2021. During club meetings, King School students explored Japanese culture and shared American culture with Meizen students in Japan over Jamboard, Flipgrid, and Google Classroom. King students have also taken part in Zoom assemblies with their international peers. Meizen English teacher Eri Yoshioka joined the exchange this year, bringing a new group of students into the program. 

To further cultivate relationships and deepen exchange with peers in Japan, the Global Education team at King has been working with Uehara and Yoshioka to develop a travel program that will run every other year. In preparation for an inaugural Sustainability in Japan program this June, Bowe traveled to Fukuoka, Kyoto, and Tokyo as part of the recent winter scouting trip. 

Bowe with Japanese Students

On her trip to Japan, Bowe researched opportunities, met with contacts at Meizen, and worked closely with travel provider Tobu Top Tours to build meaningful programming around Japan’s engagement with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Shingo Sasazaki and Alex Okura of Tobu Top Tours also arranged for Bowe to visit Kitakyushu, an SDGs and Future City recognized for how it has revitalized and transformed former industrial areas. 

“This was truly a special experience because of the connections made,” Bowe said. “After nearly two years of virtual exchange, it was wonderful to meet with Japanese colleagues in person and see the students engaged in their school community. It was also important to meet with new contacts whose work with sustainable practices will enable students to bring this knowledge back to our community. We have a wonderful structure prepared for our travel program around our theme of sustainability and our focus on exchange.” 

The upcoming June program will include time at Meizen High School, where King students will attend classes and clubs, as well as take part in an optional homestay component to experience cultural immersion. Additionally, student travelers will have the opportunity to interview organizations in various sectors on their sustainable practices. In the future, the group hopes to welcome Meizen students to King’s campus and to continue to build connections between our school communities. 

Hauben with VB team

Hauben joined Bowe in Japan to further explore ways to expand and enhance programming through the continued development of King Global Athletics, which aims to align and connect with as many other global programs as possible. Pre-pandemic, the initiative saw King student-athletes travel to Colombia and China, with plans now continuing for additional trips to the Dominican Republic and Japan. 

During his travels, Hauben explored all of the opportunities for the interdisciplinary volleyball program by visiting high schools with strong volleyball teams in Tokyo, Kasukabe, and Kyoto. The experience helped to cultivate relationships with school administration and programs, setting plans for a March 2024 trip for King Girls Volleyball athletes and coaches. This trip will present the King student-athletes with the transformative opportunity to practice and play with some of the best high school players in Japan in a number of competitions. Participants will also engage in classroom and social activities along with an optional homestay component for a more immersive experience.