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One year after an offshore earthquake caused a massive tsunami along Japan's eastern coast, a group of 29 Harvard Kennedy School students visited the country during spring break. It was an opportunity for the students, from 12 countries, to see firsthand how the nation and its people are recovering from a tragedy that claimed more than 15,000 lives.
"It's been a great experience," Andronik Chakhoyan MC/MPA 2013 told the Japan Times. "We've seen the news coverage, TV coverage and YouTube videos, but that's not the same as actually coming here and seeing the devastation with our own eyes."
“We experienced various aspects of Japanese culture, from Shintoism to political leadership, including a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda who encouraged us to pursue our own will,” said Kanoko Kamata MPAMC 2012.
Bryana Tucci MPP 2013 told the Times she was touched by the determination and perseverance of the Japanese people.
"I was really impressed by the local community's response to March 11. Specifically, how individuals, businesses and family members of the community were able to use their personal resources, personal knowledge to try to respond to the tragedy, to overcome challenges and to meet specific needs of their community," Tucci remarked.
“The trip made me rethink what I previously thought was the right approach to disaster relief”, said Rana El Hattab, MPP 2013.
Patrick Magnotta MPA/MC 2012 expressed concern about how much input local residents are having in the rebuilding process.
"What do the people in temporary housing think about (the) future of their community? What do they want it to look like? We didn't have a chance to speak with people on the road. That's something that I'll have to go back and do more research on," Magnotta told The Times.