Roundtable Discussions Among Foreign Students

Public Relations Office        March 21, 2013

Roundtable Discussions

Kwansei Gakuin University has entered into bilateral agreements with approximately 90 universities in 25 countries throughout the world as of May 2009, whereby it is able to send Japanese students overseas and accept foreign students from those countries. This year, for example, approximately 100 exchange and 400 international students are studying at KGU.
Some of the foreign exchange students gathered to partake in roundtable sessions in which they discussed their feelings about Japan and issues concerning campus life. Keisuke Tanaka, a third-year student in the School of Humanities who has experience working as a Nihongo Partner (Japanese Partner), acted as the moderator and coordinator of the discussions.

Profiles of the Participants

Keisuke TANAKA (third-year student in the School of Humanities)

Tanaka

Mr. Tanaka, who has experience as a Japanese liaison, participates in Foreign Students’ Week and other events. His dream is to become a Japanese-language teacher, so that he can share the Japanese culture and language in other parts of the world.

Yong Sik LEE (second-year student in the School of Law and Politics)

YONG SIK

Ms. Lee, an international student from Korea, came to Japan in March 2008. Her hobby is playing musical instruments, and she belongs to the orchestra circle. Her dream is to become a person who can contribute to the East Asian region.

Aki Celia PIPENBURG

AKI

Ms. Pipenburg, born in Germany, is the daughter of a German father and Japanese mother. An exchange student from University of Erlangen at Nuremberg, she came to Japan in September 2008. She belongs to the athletic club and the apparatus gymnastics group.

Sophie Joanne FLYNN

SOPHIE

Ms. Flynn was born in the USA and is an exchange student from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. She came to Japan in August 2008 and belongs to the tea ceremony club.

Varied Reasons for Choosing Kwansei Gakuin University

AKI

My mother is Japanese, and in Germany I went to the Japanese school every Saturday since the age of three. I could speak Japanese, but when I had a part-time job as an interpreter for a staff member of a Japanese company, I wanted to learn more about Japanese manners and honorific expressions. That's why I decided to come to Japan. Because the University of Erlangen at Nuremberg had an exchange agreement with Kwansei Gakuin University, I had a chance to participate as a foreign student.

YONG SIK

YONG SIK

I’m interested in East Asia, and I think the region should form a community along the lines of the EU in the future. I traveled in Japan and China for approximately one month after graduating from senior high school, and I would like to know more about Japan and China. So, eventually I decided that Japan would be the best place to study.

SOPHIE

I’ve been interested in Japanese culture and tradition since my days in junior high school. And coincidentally, at the time I began to think about visiting Japan, I had a chance to spend a month at Mukogawa Women's University. I liked the atmosphere in Nishinomiya City, and I really wanted to live and study here. That is why I chose Kwansei Gakuin University.

TANAKA

I’d like to become a Japanese-language teacher, but I’ve had no foreign study experience or anything like that. So, I respect all of you simply because you’ve decided to live abroad and realize your dreams.

What's Cool in Japan, and What’s Bizarre

TANAKA

How did you feel once you were actually living in Japan?

YONG SIK

What's cool about Japan is that students have privileges. For example, students get discounts for train and movie tickets. We have the fee structure only between children and adults in Korea, so I sensed that Japanese students were treated well here [laughs].

SOPHIE

I was impressed with the Washlet toilets. When I first saw one, I was puzzled with so many buttons on it. I gingerly tried various functions, but now I’m totally used to it.

YONG SIK

In Japan it’s common to see grave sites around houses and in the city. I wonder if people in the neighborhoods are simply unafraid of graves, though. In Korea, graves aren’t so close by. I was a bit surprised to find that custom in Japan, because I’m a person who’s too scared to enter even a fun house [laughs]!

SOPHIE

I’ve stayed with many host families so far. When I stayed with a family who were big fans of the Hanshin Tigers (Japanese professional baseball team), I was overwhelmed by their power [laughs]. I was also amazed to know that fathers had strict educational policies in regard to their daughters. For example, fathers would set curfews and restrict participation in social circles for their daughters. They’d decide the order of bathing, such “fathers are always first.” I was impressed that every family had its own rules.

AKI

AKI

What amazed me most was job hunting by Japanese students. They wear similar clothes and start job hunting at the same time. In Germany, individuality is regarded as the most important factor, and students are free to decide when to start working. Some students start working just after graduating from the university, and others travel for a few months in order to expand their horizons before working. When I heard my club seniors talking, I had the impression that job hunting tends to sway Japanese students.

The hierarchical relationship in organizations is very strict. I felt that way when I worked for a Japanese foundation as an intern and joined an activities club. German people never feel that older people are superior to younger people.

YONG SIK

There is more of a strict hierarchical relationship in Korea than in Japan. Older people have the power [laughs]!

AKI

When an upper-class student pours a drink for a lower-class student at a drinking party, the lower-class student must drink it. I was also surprised to see this. You may have an image that Germans like beer, but we don't have such a custom as giving drinks to someone forcibly. It’s the German style to drink at your own pace. I think that it is strange that the students don’t say “NO!” when they don’t want to drink.

YONG SIK

The drinking culture in Korea is similar to that of Japan. You often see the same scene in Korea as in Japan. It may be a part of the East Asian culture.

SOPHIE

I haven’t come across such a scene since I came to Japan. It may depend on the tradition of the organization to which you belong, even in Japan.

About Campus Life

SOPHIE

SOPHIE

Japanese universities have more clubs and circles. It’s nice that everybody is seriously but happily involved in athletic and cultural clubs.

YONG SIK

Korean universities have few clubs like those of Japan. Koreans think that people who want to play sports should work at sports only. Still, no matter how skillful they play baseball, they don't have a chance to do other things. Japanese students should work on their studies as well as sports. I think Japan’s system is better than Korea’s.

AKI

What is interesting in Japanese clubs is that members work not only to improve their athletic skills but also to acquire more guts. It might have to do with tradition, but sometimes they make exercise very hard.

TANAKA

It’s certain that, when we talk about tradition in Japan, it sounds absolute. When I’m asked, “Why do you do it?” and reply that it’s because of tradition, it must be difficult for a foreigner to clearly understand the reason.

AKI

I believed you must hand down good things as a tradition. However, I also feel that bad things are handed down too. It’s important to change according to the times. For example, men must serve as team captains or, at any rate they should listen to the graduates and seniors. I’m always repeating the question, "Why?" to such statements [laughs]. But Japanese students never ask questions, and they often have no answers to my questions.

About Study in the University

TANAKA

TANAKA

What are your thoughts, from the standpoint of study?

AKI

I attend classes with Japanese students, but I was surprised to see students ignore their teachers. Even during class, they will write e-mails on their mobile phones, play games or fix their makeup. It’s noisy anyway, so I should sit in the first row so that I can understand the class. On the other hand, there’s a class where the teacher, who is strict, warns the students that they’ll have to leave the room if they start chatting. I can only concentrate on my studies in a class like that.

YONG SIK

Teachers are the greatest in Korean universities. That's why students don't eat and drink during class. Of course, and they need the teacher's permission even to go to the bathroom. In Korea, all students concentrate on their class work.

AKI

Japanese university students are very fashionable. It's like a fashion show. But the university is the place to study. I don't understand why they spend so much time and money on cosmetics and clothes. Many German university students live in dormitories a five-minute walk from the university. I’m not sure that’s the reason, but most students don’t wear makeup and go to school in sweat suits or simple clothes. I’m also amazed to see many students escape from their classes. I think it’s important to do our best in study and in play.

YONG SIK

Korean students often discuss politics with each other, so I feel it’s strange that Japanese university students don't.

AKI

It’s true that when I talk about politics and current news, many students often respond indifferently, like, "Really? I didn't know that.” In Germany, all family members watch news after dinner and have discussions about them. Germany is very far away--12 hours from Japan--but we can talk about Japanese news instantly, like what the Prime Minister is doing.

What Encourages You in Japanese Life

YONG SIK

I’ve joined the music circle, so I get good support from the activities and communication with my friends in the circle. I enjoy the circle because all the members are doing what they like, and they give it their heart and soul.

AKI

I enjoy the club, too. Thanks to the club, I can experience things that might be hard to obtain through ordinary overseas study. I attend the club five times a week. Sometimes I think it’s difficult, but it’s always satisfying.

SOPHIE

I’ve also made many friends since I joined the tea ceremony club.

TANAKA

I’m glad to hear that each of you belongs to a club or circle, and that you enjoy campus life. When I was working as a Nihongo Partner (Japanese Partner), foreign students would tell me that they would rarely join a club or a circle because if they missed the entry period they were not allowed to join, or Japanese students would be confused because exchange students had not joined up until present.

AKI

There are many foreign students who failed to join a club even though they wanted to. I suppose we might feel puzzled initially, but we’d really like to join a club. There’s cross-cultural communication that we can all experience for the first time when foreign students join our club or circle. Since joining the club as a foreign student, I’ve come to recognize the change in awareness among Japanese students.

Exchanges with Japanese Students

SOPHIE

It’s very difficult to communicate with Japanese students if you don't join a club. When I stayed with my Japanese partner, I’d occasionally make friends with his or her friends. That was natural. But I can say that I make friends just because we attend the same class.

AKI

At German universities there are often parties on the campus or in dormitories in which the students and professors attend, allowing them to socialize and network. If you’d like to make friends, the best way is to join the party and look for someone who gets along with you. I wish we could have these kinds of parties at Japanese universities, too.

TANAKA

We have the coffee hour and global lounge in Building G, where Japanese students and foreign students can have exchanges with each other. But I think we need to have more chances to get to know each other naturally.

SOPHIE

When I visit the global lounge, Japanese students often talk to me in English. They’d like to practice English, or they’d like me to help with their English homework, etc. [laughs]. I’m happy to be asked that way. But since I’d like to communicate in Japanese if possible, I’m usually happier if they feel free to speak in Japanese, so we can exchange information about our lives on campus.

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