Sometimes, lessons learned far away are the ones that really hit home. Six Exercise Sciences majors, three Dance majors, and two professors from UCI, learned and taught in Japan for a week during July 2015, and came back home with a sense of the universality of physical motion as a means of building personal connections, as well as a subject of academic inquiry. The UCI group attended the Tsukuba University Summer Institute (TSI) for Exercise Science, in Tsukuba, Japan. This weeklong international seminar/workshop for undergraduate and graduate students in physical education and sport sciences has an apt home at Tsukuba, where an impressive number of faculty are retired professional athletes, as well as top-notch scholars in the field. UCI and Tsukuba are sister institutions, and the atmosphere was welcoming and collaborative.
The TSI offered three different programs: Collaborative Research Program, Laboratory Program, and Sports, Physical Activity and Culture. Highlights included learning Judo from world champion Kaori Yamaguchi (who is a celebrity within Japan and the global Judo community), participating in labs for the study the neurobiology of exercise and watching our own UCI student, David Ho, present his research on facial modeling and reconstruction in a scientific poster session. UCI students also attended daily presentations by visiting international scholars in exercise sciences.
In spite of the heat and humidity from a nearby typhoon, students showed their enthusiasm for all forms of movement at a barbeque for the TSI. A UCI student casually demonstrated a dance move for a student from Scotland . . . and soon afterward, everyone was up on their feet laughing, and UCI students were giving their international colleagues a primer in line dancing.
The Summer Institute was an excellent opportunity for UCI students to learn from the world’s experts in exercise science, and to experience the differences and similarities in approaches to physical activity. Students learned that although they all came from very different cultures, they all shared a belief in the importance of physical activity for preventative health care and mental wellbeing.
Student attendees from UCI were Alison Tran, Josh Dela Luna, E.J. Torrabala, Han Tran, Huong Nguyen, David Ho, Anne-Marie Leiby, Jessica Harper, and Ongella Johnson; faculty attendees were Biological Sciences professor Dr. Nancy Aguilar-Roca, and Dance professor Dr. Kelli Sharp. Other attendees were students, postdoctoral researchers, athletes, and professors from Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, German, Hungary, India, Korea, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Wales.
UCI students were supported by a generous contributions from Dr. Marlene Godoy (a UCI alumna), UROP and the Exercise Medicine and Sports Science Initiative.