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Students visit Hiroshima, learn about building peace

For the past 69 years, Hiroshima, Japan has been the center of driving force behind the Peace and Conflict Studies [PACS] major and minor at the University.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city as a means of ending the Second World War. In the years following, the discipline of PACS has evolved into finding the means to an end of conflict.

Sixty-nine years later, students gain the firsthand knowledge by visiting Hiroshima and experiencing what it means to be building peace.

Every two years, Akiko Jones, a member of the Asian Studies department, takes students to Hiroshima Jogakuin University for a peace seminar that takes place during the anniversary week of the bombing.

The program allows students to spend week and a half in Hiroshima, with time spent in lectures, seminars, museums, along with a talk by a survivor of the bombing. During their stay, students stay with host families.

The trip is worth three credit hours, which is the only thing students have to pay for, Jones said. The rest of the trip is paid for by HJU, including the flight, the lecture fee and the overall cost of the stay while in Japan.

“They learned not only about the peace and conflict, but they learned real peace, to be communicating with host families…” Jones said. “They [the students and host families] were crying as they were leaving.”

Ashley Martinez, a senior psychology major, went to Hiroshima in August. The experience for Martinez was interesting.

“It was interesting… see how the events that took place in World War II changed [Hiroshima] forever and how it’s still present in the society,” Martinez said. “We read about it in books and we know what happened, but we really don’t know how it personally affected them.”

Along with Martinez, senior Asian Studies major Jane Powell went on the trip. For Powell, the tip was full of hands on experience with the culture, along with a strong focus on peace studies. The students who went on the trip were able to experience was what the bombs did to Hiroshima, along with being able to speak to a hibakusha, or a survivor of the bombing.

Museums also provided a lot of firsthand experience to the students.

“At the museum, they had roof tiles. The tiles had been melted by the extreme heat. You could put your hand on it and feel the bumpiness on it, and the damage. And you’re thinking, ‘man this is a lot,’” Powell said.

During the trip, students learn about nuclear weapons and how they were formed, Martinez said. Students also learned how the community as a whole was able to move forward with positive peace and the future of nuclear weapons disarmament.

On Sept. 17, Martinez and Powell will be giving presentations on different subjects of the trips. Martinez will be focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] as a community and how as a whole, the community recovers from warfare and trauma. Martinez said the way Hiroshima recovered is a positive example, and how the community made it a positive thing.

Powell is focusing on the common themes of the trip. “Everything is focused on making the event real to the person. It’s different to hear about a bomb exploding and this mean people dying then to actually to look at those things and feel them,” Powell said.

The conference, “Embracing Global Engagement,” will be hosted from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. in room 206 of the Union.​

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