In a twist on Northeastern’s pop­ular Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions program—which sends stu­dents abroad for five weeks of inten­sive study in any of 25 loca­tions around the globe—sixteen Japanese stu­dents from Meiji Uni­ver­sity recently came to North­eastern to immerse them­selves in U.S. his­tory and cul­ture. Over the course of two weeks, Meiji stu­dents attended a series of lec­tures about the United States and explored the City of Boston.

The aca­d­emic part­ner­ship between North­eastern and Meiji is unof­fi­cially referred to as a “reverse Dia­logue of Civilizations.”

From day one, the stu­dents said they wanted to study at North­eastern for the rest of their col­lege lives,” said Kosaku Dairokuno, a polit­ical sci­ence and eco­nomics pro­fessor at Meiji who accom­pa­nied the Japanese stu­dents to North­eastern. “They loved the phys­ical and aca­d­emic envi­ron­ment of the university.”

Over the past two years, Northeastern’s Dia­logue trip to Japan has become the university’s most pop­ular; stu­dents declare the trip to be a life-​​changing expe­ri­ence. North­eastern polit­ical sci­ence asso­ciate pro­fessor Bruce Wallin, who has a long­standing rela­tion­ship with Meiji, decided the time was right to create a sim­ilar oppor­tu­nity for Japanese students.

When Wallin pitched the idea of the reverse Dia­logue trip so that Japanese stu­dents could expe­ri­ence the Amer­ican way of life the response was more than enthu­si­astic. Now, there are ten­ta­tive plans for addi­tional fac­ulty and stu­dent exchanges between the two universities.

At the heart of the suc­cess of both trips is the degree to which stu­dents’ per­spec­tives of each others’ nations are expanded. “Before the Dia­logue, many North­eastern stu­dents had little under­standing of what Japan was all about,” says Wallin. “When they finally expe­ri­enced Japan they learned that the people face the same polit­ical prob­lems and the same policy prob­lems as we do. After that, they never thought about Japan in the same way.”

The same held true for the Meiji stu­dents vis­iting North­eastern. They gained a greater under­standing of the U.S, shat­tering pre­con­ceived notions and height­ening their aware­ness of the country’s his­tory along the way, says Dairokuno. Stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in 10 lec­tures on topics ranging from U.S. for­eign policy and America’s rela­tion­ship with Japan, to the his­tory of Boston and U.S. cul­tural diver­sity. The diver­sity among U.S. cit­i­zens sparked par­tic­ular interest among the Japanese students.

The U.S. has become a really mul­ti­cul­tural society, whereas Japan is more homo­ge­neous,” Dairokuno said. “By staying at North­eastern, our stu­dents started to under­stand the meaning of that diversity.”

Not all the trip was aca­d­emic. Meiji stu­dents also had a chance to enjoy some down­time, eating meals with their North­eastern peers (“Seeing North­eastern stu­dents become great friends with Meiji stu­dents was one of the high­lights for me,” says Wallin.) and taking in the music of one of rock’s all– time greats—Beatles legend Paul McCartney—outside Fenway Park.

We wanted to expose Japanese stu­dents to Amer­ican cul­ture and get them to know what Amer­ican people are really like,” Wallin says. “The hope is that this visit will lay the foun­da­tion so the exchange will grow.”