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Richardson ’21 on HELIO: “We didn’t just ‘see’ Japan—we truly got to know it”


This summer, Kyra Richardson ’21 joined 23 students from around the world at Osakikamijima island in Japan for a two-week program. Richardson's travel was funded by the Renyi Leadership Fund.

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Kyra Richardson '21 atop a mountain in Teshima.

The Human Ecology Lab and Island Odyssey (HELIO) focuses on the intersection of human ecology and Japanese higher education. Over the course of 10 days, students participated in workshops, trainings, and hands-on meetings with local communities in Japan.

Participants in the program were chosen from the global Ashoka University network—schools that are most active in creating social impact leaders and innovators. Hamilton College was designated as a Changemaker Campus by Ashoka U in 2014.

Interacting purposefully and closely with small communities that outsiders do not typically visit made this trip especially impactful.

 HELIO is presented in partnership with the College of the Atlantic, the town of Osakikamijima and Designing for Social Innovation and Leadership (DSIL).

“My favorite part was the cultural immersion,” said Richardson. “Interacting purposefully and closely with small communities that outsiders do not typically visit made this trip especially impactful. We didn’t just ‘see’ Japan—we truly got to know it, its people, and their stories. Throughout this process, we became incredibly close to the communities we visited as well as each other.”    

about Kyra Richardson ’21

Major: Comparative Literature

Hometown: Queens, NY

High School: The Baccalaureate School for Global Education

see where others are studying around the world

HELIO students worked together in cross-cultural teams to develop ideas and reimagine the future of education and ecological systems—locally and around the globe. Throughout the 10 days, they co-designed a new Japanese “college” in the Osakikamijima community. At the end of the program, participants pitched their ideas in a presentation to local and regional leaders.

Richardson was eager to make use of her Japanese language classes with native speakers in Japan, both during the scheduled training and the trips to various sites in Hiroshima and Fukushima.

“I think I learned a lot about the immense value of community,” Richardson said. “HELIO’s approach to learning allows students like me to interact with and become close to the faces and the environment behind real-world issues. This process makes the demand for change much greater—once you get to know everyone and all they have to offer, you truly want to work to make a difference for them.”

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