Students in front of plants

Rockwell City Student Travels to Japan as Part of Dental Hygiene Exchange

Posted 6/8/2017

DMACC Dental Hygiene Exchange with Yamanashi Dental Hygiene Program

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Dental Hygiene student Kim Meyer of Rockwell City joined fellow student Ashley Bradshaw of Maurice and Professor Jackie Kollasch on a 10-day trip to Japan.  This marked the 50th anniversary of the Yamanashi Dental Hygiene College (YDHC) in Kofu and DMACC had just concluded its 50th year.  This also marked the 30th anniversary of an exchange between DMACC’s Dental Hygiene program and YDHC.   


Students around Hello Kitty statue 

DMACC Dental Hygiene Professor Jackie Kollasch (left) and DMACC Dental Hygiene students Kim Meyer of Rockwell City and Ashley Bradshaw of Maurice tour the “Hello Kitty” statue at Takeda Shrine. The DMACC delegation said they learned that “Hello Kitty” actually originated in Kofu, Japan.  The trio was in Japan as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the exchange between DMACC and the Yamanashi Dental Hygiene College in Kofu.


Meyer and Bradshaw were selected to represent the Dental Hygiene students through an application and interview process. Meyer said it was an educational and insightful trip, noting many differences between the two programs.  YDHC has a three-year dental hygiene program which is basically dental assisting and dental hygiene combined.  At DMACC, there is a one-year Dental Assisting program and a two-year Dental Hygiene program, both based out of the Ankeny Campus.

Professor Kollasch said Japan has a nationalized healthcare system, while the United States does not. She said being in the dental field in Japan does not pay as much as it would here because the U.S. has private insurances.


Student making pottery 

Student Ashley Bradshaw shows off some pottery she made during one of the stops on the exchange program.


“The equipment in the dental hygiene school and dental clinics in Japan is very up-to-date and very high tech,” said Meyer.  “It is the best of the best, including the X-ray machines and dental chairs.  They had amazing equipment; however, their instruction was very much lacking. Their first-year students did not know how to floss. Their instruction and their level of dental education is much lower than ours.”

She said since they do not have fluoride in their water, decay is a frequent issue with their teeth.  She did say that all of the Japanese dental hygiene students would always brush their teeth right after eating lunch, as well as in the morning and evening. 

Meyer, 30, has been out of the United States only once before, to attend a destination wedding in Jamaica.

“I was a little nervous before I left that I wasn’t going to like the food in Japan,” said Meyer.  “But when I got there, it was amazing.  I don’t think we got anything that we didn’t like.  However, I did not eat the raw sushi.  Their desserts were not as sweet as they are in America, but they were little so you could try different ones.”


Three students standing on the glass floor 

Near the glass floor of the 2080 foot tall Tokyo Skytree, the largest tower in the world.


Meyer said many of the restaurants they were in had pictures of the food, so although the menus were written in Japanese, you could look at the picture and kind of know what you were ordering.

Meyer said the DMACC trio took Japanese classes from former DMACC Professor Yoshiko Swift prior to the trip.  She said they learned a basic set of words, numbers and customs.  They also found the Google Translator app to be extremely helpful when the language barrier was an issue.

“They knew more English that we knew Japanese,” said Meyer.  “That was very helpful for us.  And we used lots of hand signals.”

Meyer, Bradshaw and Kollasch were able to take part in many Japanese activities such as pottery making, flower arranging, site seeing and origami.


Student in classroom 

Student Kim Meyer with students from the Yamanashi Dental Hygiene College in Kofu.


“The origami with the students was so cool because we are so clearly horrible at it,” said Meyer.  “The girls in the class would help us. They could see that we were struggling.  They didn’t speak great English, but they would say ‘fold,’ and you would look and they would smile and nod.  They were so excited to give you little origami presents like a crane or a heart.”

While in Kofu, the Iowans could enjoy the sight of the majestic Mount Fuji everyday.  When they travelled to Tokyo, 80 miles away, they could still see Mount Fuji. 

“My biggest surprise was how clean the cities are,” said Meyer. “As soon as we stepped off the bus, one of the first things I said was ‘how clean everything was.’ There was not a speck of trash on the ground.”

Meyer said she also noticed that everyone in Japan seems to love Justin Bieber.  She also said a lot of the songs on the radio were American pop and country songs.

“Everyone of the Japanese dental hygiene students could sing all of the songs in perfect English,” said Meyer. “But when they would try to speak English like us they were embarrassed or shy.” 

She said most of the Japanese students were fresh out of high school, none of them were married and most still lived with their parents.  She said some even had an hour one-way commute to school everyday.

The exchange happens each year.  In September of the even year, one instructor and two students from the Yamanashi Dental Hygiene College will come to Iowa.  In the following year, one instructor and two DMACC students will go over in May.

“I would go back in a heartbeat,” said Meyer.


Students standing to be recognized 

The students are recognized during a special ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the exchange between DMACC and the Yamanashi Dental Hygiene College (YDHC). This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the YDHC. DMACC had just celebrated its 50th anniversary.   



[Read dental student Ashley Bradshaw's experience] 

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