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The START to Culture Awareness


 

Contributor(s): Thomas Lavenir

 

こんにちは (or Konnichiwa) is what you could have said to say hello to the group of 30 guests, Hiroshima University students, who stayed on our campus for 2 short weeks in September. JMU has now had the honor to welcome Hiroshima University students ever since 2010 when the START program was developed and implemented.

The START program which stands for: Study Tour Abroad for Realization and Transformation was implemented to meet the Hiroshima University’s goal to provide more students with the opportunity to go overseas. Back in 2010 the program focused on sending first-year students who have little to no experience in overseas travel to experience classes and everyday life at an overseas partner university while earning 2 credits towards a general education course: ‘Overseas Field Study’. Ultimately the program promotes cross-cultural exchange and the value of long-term study abroad.

 Japanese Culture Night poster

This program became so successful that in 2017, the Hiroshima University launched a ‘step-up program’ called START+ to provide these same opportunities for their second and third-year students. To enable as many different students to participate in the START program, Hiroshima University and different sponsors provide funds to the students to lessen their financial burden to “open-up a gateway for more students to play an active role in this globalized world.” Students selected for the START program can choose amongst the following destinations: Spain, Lithuania, Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and USA. For the USA or the JMU START program, students are provided two thirds of the total cost of the trip. 

This year, 50 Hiroshima University students applied for the JMU START program and 30 of them were accepted. Shortly after they were accepted they met for a series of pre-departure meetings with the Director of the program: Dr. Fuyuko Takita to learn more about the US, its culture, and also for them to devise and develop an action plan as to how they will develop their competencies once on our campus. Considering that most, if not all, of the participants want to improve their English they form different groups and figure out what aspect of the Japanese culture they want to share during the different events that they are responsible for during their time at JMU and in the larger community.

Considering that their university starts back in October, they could not extend their stay in the US any longer though many of them would have definitely enjoyed spending a few extra days with the friends they made through the program. Some of the closest relationship they established are the ones they formed with the RAs they were sharing a room with. When reflecting on that experience, one of the Japanese students expressed how surprised he was to see how hard-working his RA friend was. “He was not only studying really hard for school, but he was also working on-campus to earn money.” Witnessing that, has inspired and motivated him to work harder and to be even more dedicated to the START program.

 Hiroshima University START program chaperones 

The JMU START program, in comparison to the other START programs, is the only one where Hiroshima University students stay in a dorm and share a room with an RA. Moreover, where they take content-based classes as opposed to simply taking English as a Foreign Language classes. The students can therefore learn and share about their own culture and that of the US in and outside of the classroom. They feel fulfilled by the sheer virtue of sharing a bit of themselves, their passion with others and learning from others’ perspectives. This sharing and exchanges of ideas, perspectives and experiences allow for self reflection as expressed by Eitaro Hirose in this quote:

This year’s three onsite Japanese chaperones Dr. Fuyuko Takita, Ms. Naoko Kajita, and Ms. Izumi Tanabe were quick at sharing the many advantages that they have observed the students gain once they come back to Hiroshima University. The students gain more self-confidence, their English fluency level increases and they feel more accomplished. The students are appreciative of “the great treatment that they receive at JMU” said Ms. Naoko Kajita. The JMU START Program Coordinator, Emily Wishon, also commented on the fact that it was also very refreshing and rewarding to see how the Japanese students really came together to represent their university and their country when they had only met each other only 4 or 5 times prior to their trip.

To conclude the Japanese students’ stay in JMU, a goodbye “matane” dinner party was organized. Hiroshima University students performed a dance and everyone, including JMU students and professors, also had the opportunity to share about their experience. After this emotional event, several JMU students approached Emily Wishon to tell her how they wanted to be involved with the START program next year and help out in any ways. This only reinforced for Emily how particularly meaningful and impactful the START program was for everyone involved.

If you, too, are looking to be involved in some ways or another with the START programs or in any other ways, don’t hesitate to e-mail the CGE office. cge@jmu.edu.

Published: Monday, October 1, 2018

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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