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Zen, Art, and Nature in Japan

Program full for summer 2024

We hope to offer this program again in a future summer.

Faculty Leader

Edmond Chang

Edmond Chang headshotAs the Continuing Lecturer for the MMW program, Edmond Chang has taught every course in the MMW five-course, as well as the transfer sequence. He has been a four-time recipient of ERC’s “Outstanding Faculty Award,” in addition to receiving UCSD’s Paul Saltman Teaching Excellence Award in 2013. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the UC San Diego in 2002. A former Fulbright Grant recipient, his dissertation focused on comparative aesthetics with an emphasis on Chinese arts in the 4th century C.E. As an undergrad at Tufts University, Dr. Chang received his B.A. in History and International Relations. He is also a published poet and translator who holds a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Dr. Chang was born in Taiwan, but grew up mostly in Libya and going to school in Malta. His hobbies include backpacking, kayaking, following (and sometimes suffering with) his favorite Premier League football team, and more recently, learning to play the Chinese seven-string zither with a 3,000-year history, the guqin. He has hiked extensively around the world, from trekking ancient Inca trails in Peru, to walking various sections of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, to completing the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail in Japan. As a faculty member, Dr. Chang first caught the “study abroad” bug when he led a group of twenty-two UCSD students to India to study the birth of Buddhism and to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama.


  • MMW 14GS: Divergent Paths to the Modern World (18th-20th Century) (draft PDF)
  • ENVR 142GS: Wilderness & Human Values Abroad (draft PDF)

Why you should go

From bonsai cultivation to ikebana flower-arrangement, from Miyazaki’s world acclaimed animes like “My Neighbor Totoro” to a meticulously raked dry Zen garden, Japanese art forms are as mesmerizing as they are distinct. Indeed, it is difficult to find anyone who has not been moved and inspired by Japanese aesthetic culture on some level. And yet, one wonders to what extent such a keen sensibility to beauty through art has shaped Japan’s cultural attitude towards environmental appreciation and conservation. Simply put, can a lifetime devoted to trimming and pruning prized bonsais inspire one also to care deeply about protecting an old growth forest from logging and development? If you are, like me, an avid admirer of the subtle refinement of Japanese art, as well as a passionate advocate for the protection of old growth forests and the ecosystems they engender, then this Global Seminar is for you. My personal goal in leading this program is to explore meaningful ways through which my passions for art and nature can be reconciled. I hope such an exploration is one you too would find enriching and empowering.

Who should go

This Global Seminar will consist of two courses, MMW 14GS (“Divergent Paths towards the Modern World, 18th-20th Century”) and Environmental Studies 142GS (“Wilderness and Human Values Abroad”). While completion of the ENVR 142 course will certainly contribute to an Environmental Studies major, it is mostly designed for students of all UCSD majors or colleges with an interest in Japanese aesthetic culture and a passion for environmental stewardship. Special focus will be given to the intricate, complex relationship between Japan’s cultural sensibilities and its natural heritage. Completion of MMW 14GS fulfills part of the Making of the Modern World requirement for all students in Eleanor Roosevelt College, including MMW 122 for transfer students.

Information Sessions

  • Monday, Oct. 30, 3:00 - 4:30 pm
  • Register here for the live Zoom link, and/or to get the post-session recording.

See the Info Session Calendar


Departure from U.S.: Sat., June 29, 2024
Arrival: Sun., June 30, 2024
Mandatory Orientation: Mon., July 1, 2024
First Day of Class: Mon., July 1, 2024
Last Day of Class: Fri., August 2, 2024
Departure for the U.S.
(or personal travel):
Sat., August 3, 2024

Flight Information

  • You will be responsible for purchasing your own airplane tickets, and your program coordinator will provide guidelines and resources during the pre-departure process to help you find an appropriate flight.
  • Do not purchase plane tickets until the program is confirmed. All approved applicants will be notified by e-mail when the contract has been signed.

Global Seminar Fees

All fees subject to change. See for current tuition and campus-based fees.

  UCSD Other UC Non-UC
Program Cost:
(includes $500 administrative fee)
 $7,558.68  $7,558.68  $7,558.68
Estimated Tuition and Campus-Based Fees:
$2,514.43 $2,564.43 $3,454.43
(not including airfare or personal expenses)
 $10,066.64  $10,116.64  $11,006.64

Budget Sheet

Funding Options

See the funding options page to learn how financial aid and scholarships can help you pay for this program.

Local Site Visits

  • Imperial Palace Tour
  • Koishidawa Korakuen Garden
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • Ueno Park
  • Yasukuni Shrine & Museum

Overnight Excursions

  •  Kyoto/Nara (5 days, 4 nights)
    • Kyoto Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
    • Kyoto Kiyomizu Temple with Traditional Tea Ceremony
    • Kyoto Zen Meditation and lesson on Zen
    • Multiple temple visits: Philosopher’s Path—From Ginkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji Temple, Daitoku-ji’s Daisen-in Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Byodo-in Temple, Jingo-ji Temple, Daikaku-ji Temple, Todaiji and Horyuji

Excursions are subject to change without prior notice. No refunds are possible.


  • Double-occupancy rooms at a 3-star hotel
  • Rooms have wifi & air conditioning
  • Housing arrangements are subject to change based on local circumstances without prior notice. No price adjustments are possible.

Included Meals

  • Welcome dinner upon arrival
  • Farewell dinner at end of program

Classroom and Computer Access

  • Classroom space is to be confirmed. 
  • It will have wifi & air conditioning.
  • Wireless access may be intermittent due to local conditions. No refunds or price adjustments are possible.


  • Transportation by private bus to and from Haneda airport to the student housing is included in the program. Two different pick-up times will be arranged based on the most common flight arrival times.
  • Do not purchase plane tickets until the program is confirmed. All approved applicants will be notified by e-mail when the contract has been signed.
  • A local transportation pass for Tokyo will be provided for each student.
  • Transportation for all out of town excursions


  • Information about how to obtain a local SIM card will be provided at the pre-departure orientation.
  • Students will be responsible to purchase their own calling time/minutes.

Insurance, Health, and Safety

  • An in-depth orientation will be given on the morning after arrival, including health and safety procedures.
  • Program partner staff will be available by telephone after hours.
  • All students will be registered for UC travel insurance valid for program dates + 14 days cumulative.
  • Students travelling more than that should obtain independent travel insurance.