Journalism students from universities will have the opportunity to travel to Kyoto and report on Japan with the help of local peers under a new cultural exchange initiative launched recently.

In September, the Institute for Education in International Media, a U.S. group that offers journalism students the chance to study abroad for a few months, picked Japan’s ancient capital as the next destination for its program.

To run from June to July next year, participants in the Kyoto Project will work with students from the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies to conduct interviews and write articles on topics of interest.

It is the first time the organization will be taking students to Japan.

“The most important thing that the visiting students will learn is how to overcome cultural barriers, understanding different customs and ways of thinking,” Laird Harrison, a director of the institute, said.

“Study abroad is very important today because we live in a global society, we live in a shrinking world — a world where people from different cultures and different countries are interacting all the time,” he said.

Rachele Kanigel, a fellow institute director and associate professor of journalism at San Francisco State University, and Harrison, a freelance journalist who has written for Reuters, CNN and Time magazine, will also visit Kyoto with the students to help with writing and interviewing.

“We are hoping for students interested in journalism, and either Japan specifically or the idea of being an international journalist or correspondent” to participate in the program, said Kanigel. “There are interests, particularly among young people, in Japanese culture, so we are hoping to have students who are interested to (learn) more about Japan and Japanese culture.”

Kanigel and Harrison have previously taken students to places such as Turkey, Jerusalem and France. They said Japan is safer by comparison and that will allow students to explore the city in greater depth.

Craig Smith, a professor at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, said he believed the project gave his students an opportunity to be “thinking outside the box.”

“It’s a wonderful experience for the students” to work in international teams, he said, adding that his students, especially those applying for jobs that will require them to work in a multinational environment, will benefit from engaging in conversations and providing translations for native English speakers.

“When they’re with their own classmates, they give themselves permission to not be so engaged and take it easy,” he said. “To do research in Kyoto city this time, with a (national) tourism target of 40 million people by 2020, is absolutely the best timing.”

Founded by Andrew Ciofalo, a professor emeritus of communication and journalism at Loyola University Maryland, the Institute for Education in International Media has since 2001 taken its students to more than 10 locations.

Kanigel said that the institute will be preparing a special website to publish students’ articles.

“When we ran a similar program in Jerusalem, a couple of students published their works in The Jerusalem Post and The Huffington Post,” she said.

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