UI alumna hops on bike to spread the word

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Iowa City woman will ride on a 2-week, 300-mile trek in Japan next month

By Josh O’Leary for the Iowa City Press-Citizen

After spending half of her college career at the University of Iowa studying overseas, Michelle Gin already is an extensive world traveler with a global perspective.

Next month, though, she will see the world from an entirely different vantage: atop her bicycle.

The Iowa City woman is one of about three dozen activists from around the world set to pedal across Japan in August on a two-week, 300-mile trek that will take her from Nagasaki to Hiroshima in the name of global peace and the end of nuclear proliferation.

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War organizes the annual ride, which this year is traversing a nation that understands all too well the effects of the atomic bomb and still is coping with effects of last year’s meltdown at Fukushima.

Gin, 23, will be the only American on the ride, which begins Aug. 7 and concludes Aug. 21 — just before the start of the IPPNW’s 20th annual World Congress in Hiroshima, which Gin will attend. Along the way, Gin and her fellow ambassadors will meet with local officials and groups along the stops, take part in peace demonstrations and spread awareness for their cause.

“I’d like for everybody to see themselves as global citizens instead of a U.S. citizen, a South African citizen, a Chinese citizen, just because everything truly is connected,” said Gin, the outreach coordinator for study abroad in the University of Iowa’s International Programs. “And that’s a perspective I’ve gained from my experiences abroad. We all share the same air and water. We are all human beings and have the same rights to access to health, education, food and water.”

Gin, an Eden Prairie, Minn., native, studied in Europe for a year at UI, then spent another year traveling through India, west Africa and Costa Rica. No other UI student has spent two years overseas yet graduated in four years, said Gin, who graduated in 2010 with a degree in International Studies and Global Health.

She currently volunteers for the Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, where Dr. Maureen McCue, coordinator for the Iowa City-based chapter, nominated Gin for the bicycle tour.

“She’s a person who has boundless enthusiasm and energy,” said McCue, who also will attend the World Conference. “When she decides this is her issue, she’s really able to engage and excite other people with her energy and passion. The real risk of nuclear proliferation is an issue that’s not talked about very much, and if anybody could learn more about it and get people talking about it, Michelle can.”

Gin, who will be biking for six hours a day during the trip, has never taken part in such an extensive cycling tour. To prepare, she’s been pedaling to and from campus each day this summer and has been heading over to UI’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on her lunch break to ride the stationary bikes.

“Not until now have I begun training and getting into all the lingo and gear,” she said. “I’ve always biked around town, but now I’m learning to train for a long ride and training with people who are doing RAGBRAI.”

Gin plans to give community presentations on the experience to groups when she returns.

“My goals are spreading awareness and educating people, and bringing that knowledge back to share with people,” she said.

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