handmade poster with Japan Day decorated on it
During Japan Day at Davis High School, students from Kyoto Otani High School showcased Japanese culture. (UC Davis)

Kyoto Otani High School Students Study Abroad at UC Davis

The Kyoto Otani High School Program at UC Davis is part of a unique partnership, developed in fall 2018, between International Programs at UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education and Otani High School in Kyoto, Japan. Through Otani High School’s Global Class, 10th and 11th grade students have the opportunity to learn English from UC Davis instructors throughout the academic year in Japan and then attend a four-week custom program on the UC Davis campus at the end of their school year. In March 2022, UC Davis welcomed the first-ever cohort—31 students—to the Davis campus.  

“I made the right decision when I visited the United States four years ago in search of a training program for Otani’s students and, without hesitation, decided to sign with UC Davis,” said Hitoshi Iiyama, principal of Kyoto Otani High School. “The Kyoto Otani High School Program at UC Davis is truly a valuable experience for our students.”  

A Foundational Program

visiting high school students from Japan pose outside UC Davis International Center
Kyoto Otani students pose with visiting high school students from Shizuoka Salesio at the UC Davis International Center. (UC Davis)

“It felt great to finally have the students here at UC Davis!” said instructor Frank Dutton who teaches Otani students in both Japan and at UC Davis. “They saw firsthand English in an everyday setting and gained new perspectives on U.S. and Japanese society and culture. It’s a wonderful growth experience that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.”   

The year-long program offers students a comprehensive curriculum with academic English as the focus in Japan and communication and culture as the focus in Davis. The classes at UC Davis serve as a continuation of their classes back home, allowing for a smooth transition while studying abroad. Students are also able to apply the critical thinking and independent learning from their Global English Class in Japan to the classes they attend at UC Davis. “The students have grown not only as students but also as leaders. They've acquired numerous skill sets that will greatly benefit them in the future,” said Dutton.  

Over the course of a year, Dutton has witnessed incredible growth in his students. “They are able to work both independently and in groups and are quite flexible and open to change. They are also more confident expressing themselves in English, are not afraid to ask questions and are much more adept at using technology than they were before the program,” he explained.  

An Immersive Experience

image of people doing Shu-ji (Calligraphy)
Otani students supervise as visitors write their names in Japanese calligraphy known as Shu-ji. (UC Davis)
student performs a common Japanese exercise
Davis and Otani high school students perform a common Japanese exercise called "Radio Exercise." (UC Davis)

While at UC Davis, students are immersed in U.S. culture. The program includes opportunities to participate in campus activities, meet with students from the UC Davis Model UN Team, collaborate with Davis High School students, interact with UC Davis students serving as student assistants and have the invaluable experience of homestays.  

“I was so happy to hear from students that they were moved deeply by the joy of meeting and communicating with people, such as teachers, homestay families, UC Davis students, and even people at the supermarket,” shared Principal Iiyama.  

“I am always nervous when speaking with someone from other countries,” said 10th grader Haruka Matsumoto. “But my experience in this program will help me. I gained a lot of knowledge.”  

Contact us to create your custom program

For more information about this program, or to set up a similar program for your school, contact Nari Fujita at nfujita@ucdavis.edu.

“I enjoyed spending time with the student assistants every day,” said Otani student Mei Chishiro who appreciated the Intercultural Research Project where she had the opportunity interview UC Davis students and present on cultural differences to her class. She also valued her interactions with the UC Davis Model UN Team. “UC Davis Model UN-ers told us about their experiences with the impact of global warming, especially in heatwaves. In Japan, we don’t have heat waves, so listening to their experiences was very precious for me.”  

One of the most valuable experiences that students gained during their time in Davis was the opportunity to not only learn about American culture, but the chance to share their own culture. Japan Day at Davis High School where Otani students showcased Japanese culture was a highlight of the program. Students played Japanese games such as shateki, taught origami and were able to meet in-person with Davis high schoolers whom they previously had only connected with online. “I was glad to meet people who study Japanese and like Japanese culture,” said Chishiro.  

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