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USF Professor Visits Japan To See How They're Handling Syrian Refugees

USF Sarasota-Manatee
USF Sarasota-Manatee associate professor of literacies education Jody McBrien is in Japan for four months teaching, as well as studying how the country is handling resettled Syrian refugees.

During the course of her career, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee associate professor of literacies education Jody McBrien estimates she’s visited 36 different countries.

Number 37 is Japan, where McBrien is serving as a visiting scholar at Sōka University in the Tokyo suburb of Hachioji.

While she’s teaching a course in international perspectives on education, McBrien will also be researching her other project: how Japan is resettling displaced people from the Middle East and Asia, particularly Syria.

We spoke with Jody McBrien about her research via Skype. You can hear that interview by clicking on the listen button at the top of the story. Here are some highlights:

Who her research is looking at:
"Japan has recently piloted resettlement of refugee families and students, and they've only been doing it a few years now and very small numbers - literally less than 20 for the first several years of resettlement. This year, they are instituting a brand new program for Syrian refugee students of higher education and a number of Japanese universities are hosting Syrian refugee higher ed students, including my university at Sōka."

Credit USF Sarasota-Manatee
USF Sarasota-Manatee
USF Sarasota-Manatee's Dr. Lynn McBrien (third from left) with some of the resettled Ugandan women she's worked with.

McBrien has done research on refugee resettlement in countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. What are the issues refugees face, no matter where they're from or where they resettle?
"Language is a huge, huge issue, as well as the post-war after effects on people's emotions and their psychological stance. Sometimes there are physical health issues involved because of the strain that they have journeyed through - through war, through refugee camps, through the journey.

So those issues typically issues follow refugees wherever they go. My guess is I'm going to hear similar things (in Japan). What I'm very interested in is seeing if the Japanese have different ways of going about supporting these needs."

Being in a new foreign country makes McBrien feel some of the same feelings resettled refugees do.
"I have learned conversational Japanese, but I can't read it. That's created some real fun in the grocery store - I bought something that I thought was sugar, it was salt. I bought something that I thought was milk for my tea, and it was actually some kind of vanilla drink that curdled when I poured it in my tea!

It's kind of the fun journey of immigration - something that I wish all of my students could experience because they will be teaching immigrants in their classrooms and it definitely creates an empathy when you're in the situation yourself."

McBrien, along with her husband, will be staying in Sōka University housing, teaching and conducting her research - as well as seeing some of the sights of Tokyo and Japan - through July of this year. She expects to return to USF Sarasota-Manatee for the fall semester.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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