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SJMC Japan 2019: The trip of a lifetime

The Texas State School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s first-ever Study Abroad Program to Japan has come and gone. After a year and a half of planning, I couldn’t be more pleased with everything about this trip.

We spent 11 days in Japan, partly in Tokyo and partly in Kyoto, including a day trip to Kamakura and Enoshima. I’m so proud of my students and their hard work, which is evident on this website. Here, you’ll find 52 feature stories, 26 photo slideshows, 13 videos, 13 personal essays, six partnered posts and 13 daily blog posts that summarized our daily activities from beginning to end.

If you’ve been following along on our trip, you’ve read about the wide diversity of topics covered by my students. If you’re new here, I invite you to explore the tabs above to peruse articles and multimedia elements by author, location or type.

To understand what this trip has meant for my students, I direct your attention to the “Personal Essay” tab to read heartfelt reflections on what my students experienced.

One of my favorite moments of the trip was also representative of what this trip meant to me. As the son of a Mexican-American father from South Texas and mother from Okinawa, Japan, I found this trip to be deeply personal, but my students were my main objective on this trip. As an educator, I wanted to give my students an opportunity to develop their feature writing and travel journalism skills and improve their writing and multimedia skills. They knocked it out of the park.

My students couldn’t contain their surprise when geisha and maiko walked nearby on their way to work in Gion, Kyoto.

On one of our days in Kyoto, our local guide took us to Gion, an area renowned for geisha, professional entertainers well versed in traditional Japanese dancing and singing. As several geiko (as geisha are known in Kyoto) and maiko (apprentice geisha) started to appear on the narrow streets, my students were transfixed. I took a moment to capture their reactions in the photo above.

I want to thank all of my students — Sam, Emilee, Dylan, Grant, Melody, Meredith, Katharine, Jakob, DeAnna, India, Shanell, Michael and Tyra — for their hard work and genuine commitment to the success of this program. For a first-time program, I could not have asked for a better group of students, and I was fortunate to have them.

Let me also thank the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the College of Fine Arts and Communication and the Study Abroad Office for all of their support and encouragement. I also want to thank Biying Ding and everyone at the Asia Institute for organizing the logistics of our trip and providing support every day.

Many thanks to Jon Zmikly, program assistant, for all of his help and support. And, last but not least, I want to thank my spouse, Raeanne R. Martinez, for joining us on this trip and helping me every step of the way.

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