Public Relations Office March 21, 2013
Exchange students from all over the world generate international interaction inside and outside the campuses
Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU) has agreements on student exchange programs with 46 universities and two consortiums all over the world and welcomes many students from overseas every year. These exchange students not only study the Japanese language and their field of specialty, but also experience Japanese culture and deepen their understanding of Japanese society through communication with Japanese students and homestays with typical Japanese families. Here are some examples of the educational and communicative activities they experience.
Studying Japanese according to level
The number of exchange students coming to KGU is on the rise. In 2008, 109 students came to the university, which is a two and half-fold increase over the past five years from 43 in 2003. Mieko ABE, the Japanese-language instructor in charge of the program, says “We are able to further globalize the university by accepting a larger number of international students.”
Many of the exchange students are from the U.S. and Europe. The program duration is basically one year starting in the fall semester, but single semester courses, starting in spring or fall, are also available. In the morning, students study Japanese as a mandatory subject in a class divided based on their level. In the afternoon, they study subjects they have chosen according to their aims and interests, such as Japanese history, politics, economics and the history and culture of China and Korea. The Japanese classes in the morning are taught only in Japanese and the other classes in the afternoon are conducted in English. Students who have become fluent in Japanese can also register for the university’s courses provided for Japanese students.
According to a questionnaire conducted in the spring semester of 2008, the most typical reasons for studying Japanese were “I’m interested in Japanese culture” and “Japanese language seems interesting.” They come to Japan for various reasons depending on the student, such as wanting to experience Japanese culture, wanting to study kanji characters or wanting to become an aikido master, but as ABE says “They all study Japanese very seriously. Those students who cannot communicate in Japanese at first improve their skills a great deal before they go home.”
Deepening interaction and understanding via a wide variety of events
Lessons contain programs for cross-cultural understanding as well. As an opportunity for students to communicate with Japanese children, joint lessons with Kwansei Gakuin Elementary School (KGES) students started from this year. “International Students Week” is a week-long opportunity for international students to express their thoughts and opinions through exhibitions and presentations. “We are thinking about giving them more open opportunities in the future at events where people from the local community as well can come to see,” says ABE.
We offer field trips in a class teaching Japanese culture. This year, we went to Kyoto to visit depa-chika (the food floor found in the basements of department stores) , which represent modern Japanese food culture and to experience the making of traditional Japanese sweets.
Outside classes, a “Coffee Hour” is held three times each semester, in which students and teachers freely gather and many Japanese students who want to make friends with international students or try speaking English can participate. The number of Japanese students who come to the Fujita Global Lounge in Building G, which is a place for international students to relax and chat, is also increasing and friendships transcending nationalities are being fostered.
We support the growth of students as people through face-to-face relationships
Indispensable for international students to live active campus lives are the student “Nihongo Partners” and the host families that welcome them as family members. “We can provide such a colorful program precisely because there are many different kinds of supporters,” adds ABE. “No matter how much the number of international students increases, we want to maintain personal relationships with them. We are glad if we can not only help them with language, but also support them so that they can grow significantly as people.”
According to the aforementioned questionnaire, 86% of the respondents said that they wanted to come to Japan again. This figure shows how students are enjoying their lives here.
Posters created with KGES children
As an opportunity for intergenerational interaction, all the exchange students visited KGES in three different groups on different days last December. The exchange students (as part of their Japanese-language class) and the KGES students (as part of their international English class) worked together on the production of “cross-cultural interaction posters.”
The exchange students and the children became partners and asked and answered questions while introducing themselves. After breaking the ice, they started to make posters. While being watched by the exchange students, the children used pens and worked hard to colorfully draw the map or national flag, etc., of their partners’ countries, which included Vietnam, Australia and the U.S. In groups working on a picture of the international student’s family, they explained to the children the appearance of their brothers and sisters, etc., also using gestures. One child who drew a map of Australia with a partner said smiling, “It was fun. My partner was very kind.” The exchange student added, “I tried hard to communicate in Japanese. That was a good experience.” Even after the dismissal bell, some of the students seemed to not want to leave the classroom and continued talking.
Presentation on “cool Japanese things” for International Students Week
Aiming at allowing more students to learn about the international students, we began holding “International Students Week” from last year. This year as well, the international students conducted exhibitions and presentations, etc., during a week in June at the Nishinomiya Uegahara Campus and other places.
In the exhibition “Cool Japan,” international students introduced one cool thing that they had discovered in Japan using photos and text. As a trial run this year, we held the “Cool Japan Talk Show” and the international students chose topics such as people dressing their pets in clothing or Otohime, a device that produces the sound of a toilet flushing. One American student talked about Japanese towels admiringly saying, “They are smaller and thinner one than those in the West, which are big and thick, making them convenient to carry with. You can also use them as a hachimaki headband or for various other purposes. I think that is cool.” A Japanese student who was listening intently to the presentations commented, “I discovered that I was unaware of many things that are actually part of Japanese culture.”
At the Student Co-op of KGU, an International Lunch Fair was held and 30 items from 15 different countries were provided, based on the results of a questionnaire on “food from your country that you would recommend to KGU students.” Two of the most popular dishes were couscous from Morocco, coarsely ground pasta in a tomato-based soup, and fårikål, simmered cabbage and lamb from Norway.
Interaction with KGU students
KGU students and exchange students enjoying campus life while supporting and cooperating with each other.
“Nihongo Partners” supporting the lives of exchange students in Japan
Nihongo Partners support exchange students by acting as their conversational partners in Japanese, guiding them around the campus and joining them in other activities so that they can get used to life in Japan as quickly as possible. Each exchange student is taken care of by two Japanese students. As of fall 2008, a total of 134 university and graduate students were participating in this program.
Hiroki YONETANI, a sophomore in the School of Business Administration, became the Nihongo Partner of an exchange student from the U.S. last September. He has set a time to talk in Japanese with him once a week and answers questions about words he doesn’t understand in the classes, the meanings of signs he has seen on the street and so on. He has also deepened his friendship with him by taking him to an amusement park and having dinner with his host family, etc.
He often goes to the Fujita Global Lounge as well, because he finds it fun to listen to the opinions of people from various countries and widen his perspective. He can listen to students who are majoring in math and science talk about their subjects, and learn about things at foreign universities, encouraging him to make further efforts.
He himself is going to attend Canada’s University of British Columbia, which is famous for its economics program, as an exchange student from this fall.
Cooperate in Japanese-language classes as a student
As practical training in the Japanese education program at the Graduate School of Language, Communication and Culture, students wanting to be Japanese-language teachers play the role of teacher with exchange students acting as students in the classes.
On this day, Mayuko MIYAGAWA took charge of a class. Standing in front of 10 international students who had gathered after having finished their classes, she looked a little nervous. In this lesson, using a scene from a Japanese TV show, the students were required to repeat the actors’ lines while watching the movement of their mouths with the sound turned down. First, she introduced the show and explained difficult words and expressions and their usage to help the students understand the situation. The students then practiced their lines over and over along with the video dialogue. Some acted just like the characters, while others became tongue-tied because they couldn’t keep up with the lines. Finally, they broke up into pairs and critiqued each other.
For Ms. MIYAGAWA, this was her first experience as a teacher and she said, “It was a very precious opportunity and I learned a lot.” After the lesson, a questionnaire was conducted on the speed of the lesson, the level of difficulty, the clarity of the teacher’s pronunciation in Japanese and other factors, which will be utilized for future education.
Japanese students improving English skills and understanding other cultures with exchange students
By taking lessons with international students, KGU students can polish their English skills and deepen their understanding of other cultures.
The Japan Studies Courses and the China & Korea Studies Courses of the Japan and East Asia Studies Program conducted in English for exchange students can also be taken by Japanese students who have an appropriate level of English ability. Through these courses, they can not only improve their English skills, but also experience the atmosphere of studying overseas, while taking part in international interaction at the same time.
Yui MISHIMA, a senior at the School of Humanities, took JSC Japanese Business A Course this year. She learned about the differences between companies in Japan and the West and the lifetime employment system, etc., partly because it’s good preparation before she enters the workforce. She was unfamiliar with many business terms and so she had a hard time while referring to her electronic dictionary. She did say, however, that “I felt as if I were studying overseas, because the other students were mostly international students. At first, I was interested mainly in the U.S. and the U.K., but now I’ve also become interested in other Asian countries through communicating with students from other parts of Asia.”
She currently is taking the Intensive English Program where lessons are taught by native English speakers and are conducted in small groups. “Studying English is fun because you can communicate with various people and experience other cultures. KGU offers a wide variety of programs, so there are many opportunities to learn English if you really want to,” she added to encourage other students.
The voice of an international student
Victor Chinglun LIAO (U.S.)
My grandmother is Japanese and she taught me some Japanese when I was little.
This is the third time I’ve come to Japan. Although I had never experienced kendo (an ancient Japanese martial art), my sister practiced it at university in the U.S. and would often bring home her shinai (bamboo sword). I also wanted to practice kendo when I came to Japan. I’ve been doing it after school four times a week. I love kendo because it has some traditional Japanese aspects, such as the civility of the greetings.
I want to experience various things in Japan, so I’m also a member of the UNESCO Club, which visits World Heritage sites in Japan, as well as the Calligraphy Club. I’m also a drummer in the Jazz Club.
I’m currently a junior at the California State University School of Medicine and I am aiming to become an internationally-active doctor.
The voice of an exchange coordinator
Sean BOILEAU (Canada)
I studied at KGU for one year as an exchange student beginning in the fall of 2004. When I came to Japan, I had a hard time because I could barely speak any Japanese. Before I returned home, I was able communicate in everyday life after making efforts such as actively participating in interactions with Japanese people and talking a lot with my host family. One of KGU’s advantages is that international students can also join clubs, which allows you to make friends with Japanese students and improve your Japanese skills.
I came to love Japan through studying at KGU and after graduating from university, I returned to Japan through the JET Program. After working as a Coordinator for International Relations in Oita Prefecture, I’ve been working here at KGU since last April. I have a wide variety of duties, including not only counseling international students based on my experience and acting as an interpreter for them, but also operating the Canadian Studies Seminar and giving advice to students going to other countries to study. I enjoy every day because I get to meet various people.
Welcoming exchange students as member of the family
The voice of a homestay family
Exchange students basically live with a homestay family. Currently, about 50 families accept students. Although the number of exchange students is increasing every year, the number of families willing to accept them is insufficient.
Mr. and Mrs. Makio and Sachie OKAZAKI live in Takarazuka City and became a host family in 1996. They started because their eldest son, who was then a student of Kwansei Gakuin High School, experienced a homestay as part of a short-term study-abroad program and suggested the idea to them. They have hosted about 15 students so far. At first, they wanted students to see various aspects of Japan and would take them to many places. They came to understand, however, that students have diverse interests and now place greater respect on their freedom.
Their relationships with their international students have continued, even after they return home. Some send email when it is least expected, while others visit every time they come to Japan. They have even been to Vietnam, Hawaii and New Zealand to attend wedding ceremonies. In addition, there is also the accidental anecdote of their eldest son, who participated in an international-student gathering on behalf of his mother Sachie and ended up meeting a student from China, eventually marrying her. Now that Mr. and Mrs. OKAZAKI have moved from a house to an apartment, they only accept short-term students who don’t have many belongings with them. They say, “You can accept students even if you can’t speak English and your house is small.”
The Center for International Education and Cooperation, through which exchange students are accepted, has been soliciting host families saying, “The more opportunities to use Japanese students have, the more they can improve their language skills. They need families who can readily accept as family members international students coming from different cultures and who have different values.”