Dental Student Exchange

During the first weeks of August, ten senior dental students (myself included!) at the University of Alabama had the privilege of participating in a dental student exchange.  Our visitors hailed from Japan — five dental students from Meikai University and five dental students from Asahi University , plus their two fearless professors.

Each UAB student paired with a Japanese dental student for ten whirlwind days.  My buddy was named Ayumi and she was in her 5th year of dental school at Meikai University.  We introduced our Japanese counterparts to sweet tea and many other American classics — hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and slow-cooked BBQ.

To me, the best part of the exchange was learning about their culture.  Post being on the

 lake all day, the Japanese students presented us with calliography paintings of our names in traditonal charcters.

Another major surprise occurred when the students gave us our own set of traditional garments — yukata for  girls  & jinbei for boys.  While Ayumi carefully folded the fabric to tuck me into my beautiful  yukata, she shared with me her grandmother had taught her how to wear this special garment.   I felt priveldged to take part in such a special ceremony, steeped with history and meaning.

Besides observing at the dental school, we showed our Japanese students the best of Alabama and our neighboring state of Georgia.  They enjoyed Lenox Mall, the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca Cola Museum and watching the Braves sweep the Cubs at Turner Field.

Posing outside the Coca-Cola Museum with our “peace signs”

With her limited English and my practically non-existent Japanese (konichiwa… arigato…), Ayumi and me always managed to find something to talk or laugh about.  Though all our pairings were random, it was uncanny what good matches all of our “buddies” were.  The ten days we hosted our Japanese students passed quickly and at the end, no one wanted to say good bye.  I think it’s safe to say they had a good time 🙂

The silver lining in our good byes is that come spring time (barring no natural disasters), we will fly to Japan and our roles will be reversed.  The former host will become the hostee.

Two other US dental  schools participate in programs with Meikai and Asahi — UCLA and UT-San Antonio.

Does your dental school participate in a similar program?  If yes, we want to know about it!

~Kallie Law, Alabama ’12, Contributing Editor

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