A Week of Virtual Exchange with Hiroshima University


SUMMARY: JMU's Center for Global Engagement goes online for Fall 2020 program with Hiroshima University.

In place of the annual START Program typically hosted for two weeks on James Madison University’s campus with Hiroshima University, CGE’s International Cooperation (IC) planned a virtual program for 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic concerns. The “JMU-HU Virtual Exchange” was a one-week, online adaptation of the traditional START program, held nightly via Zoom in September 2020. Topics included US History and current events, US-Japan cultural differences, global studies topics, a facilitated exchange on global responses to the COVID-19, JMU history and culture, and games and activities with student peers.

Eighteen Hiroshima University students and two faculty/staff participated from Japan in each of the five, two-hour, synchronous sessions offered by JMU. Typically, the START program is for rising first-year students only. While everyone looks forward to resuming an in-person program, an unexpected benefit of the virtual program this year was the ability to include more students from different class years, which enhanced conversations and exchange with JMU and Hiroshima University peers. JMU-HU_2020_exchange_word_cloud.png

The synchronous sessions also included 40 JMU students and six faculty presenters and facilitators. JMU students participated from two different classes, as well as a group of RAs from the Office of Residence Life. In the traditional, on-campus program, Hiroshima University students live for two weeks in dorms with RAs, so the virtual program was a welcome opportunity to make some of those connections that are such a meaningful part of the usual START program. The RAs prepared and led virtual icebreakers and cultural exchange activities over Zoom.

In addition to the nightly sessions (mornings at JMU), IC and the instructors provided the students with a variety of asynchronous resources prior to and following the program. There was also strong interest among participants to continue discussions of cultural and language exchange beyond the program, so a chat group was set up for interested students. The word cloud image above was generated from participant comments at the end of the program.

Until the next in-person program, the online program was a meaningful opportunity for connection and the building of cross-cultural skills in this time of shared disruptions and resilient learning.


2019 Japanese Culture Night group photo
Fall 2019 Japanese Culture Night with the START group.

Back to Top

Published: Friday, December 11, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, December 11, 2020

Related Articles