Jan 6, 2020

A glimpse into the impact of Global Classmates

We always learn something new when we visit classes participating in Global Classmates. Be it innovative ways teachers incorporate the program into their curriculum or the various skills and knowledge students are gaining from talking to their partner classmates across the Pacific. Our recent visits to some of the high schools in the US participating in Global Classmates this year were no different.

Our Vice President Shanti Shoji visited Alhambra High School in California and met with the teachers and students participating in Global Classmates. The students were working on their “omiyage” gifts to send to their partner school in Japan and making cute origami Halloween cards! Ichise-Sizemore-sensei told us, “I love that my students are able to connect with teens in Japan and use the Japanese they learn in my class in a practical way. It means a lot to them to be able to talk with the students in Japan and learn from them.” 

At Marble Hill School for International Studies in New York, the students were working on posting comments on the discussion topic “My Best Travel Memories.” They were having fun sharing photos and memories of their travels to various places like Disney World, Niagara Falls, and Washington, DC, while reading about Japanese students’ school trip to Hiroshima, Osaka, and Kobe. How great to get an insider travel tips from their peers!

At Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland, we were able to hear from the students and Ogawa-sensei directly the amazing impact the program has been making on them. Participating in Global Classmates not only brought confidence to the students in their Japanese language abilities, but it made connecting with Japanese people and using the language no longer intimidating. The experience allowed some of the students to feel comfortable enough to pursue next-step opportunities to engage with Japan, such as applying to go to a university in Japan and go on a summer exchange program to Japan. As one student told us, “I’ve been able to see that the Japanese students are actually very similar to us and so I no longer feel intimidated to talk with them. I’m really enjoying being able to connect with them and become friends!”

We are so thankful for all of these passionate teachers who are doing an amazing job facilitating the program and making a huge impact in the students lives. The program would not be possible without them!

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Oct 14, 2019

Building a positive future for U.S.-Japan Relation

Global Classmates Summit 2019 took place in Washington, DC from July 25th to August 3rd. The twelve high school students (six from the U.S. and six from Japan) were selected to participate from a pool of over 1,700 participants from KAC’s virtual exchange, Global Classmates, the previous year.

One student from the U.S. had grown close to one of the students from Japan through the Global Classmates virtual exchange. For six months, they had talked to each other on various topics and found common interests, even sending a small gift to one another as part of the Omiyage Exchange project. They were so surprised when they were both chosen to participate in the Summit and were so excited to be able to actually meet in person. The friendship they cultivated online was able to blossom into a bond that will last a lifetime.

During the ten-day Summit, students lived under the same roof and participated in various activities, ranging from teambuilding exercises to meeting leaders and experts in the field of U.S.-Japan relations. At the end of the program, participants presented on what they learned, and shared their thoughts on building a positive future for U.S.-Japan relations and the broader international community.

Coming from very diverse backgrounds, it took the students some time to figure out how to effectively work with one another. However, it was that diversity and their ability to be vulnerable and open with one another that allowed them to develop close bonds with one another, showing tremendous growth as a group and as individuals. Many students also had their own breakthrough moments. For example, one student from Japan who once thought he would never be able to study or work abroad due to his family situation is now determined to find a way to come to the United States to study. Another student from the U.S. who was on a path to become a dentist because that’s what she thought she should do, is now set on following her true passion which is furthering her studies of Japanese and working in international relations.

Below are some of the student voices regarding their Summit experience:

US Students:

I learned so much at the Summit, not only about various topics that we discussed with professionals, but about myself. I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses and how I am able to contribute to this team, my community, and the world. I made lifelong friends that I consider family, and I think if it weren’t for this experience, I would be a very different person. I am excited for the future. I am excited for how I can make a difference and I am excited to see how my fellow participants do the same. As I face many new and challenging situations in the future, I know I have everyone that was beside me in this Summit to look toward when I need inspiration and to lean on when I need support.

Not only did I learn valuable skills that are career related like networking and speaking to experts in their field, but I also learned how to understand and connect to people from cultures very different from mine. Career wise, this Summit made me so much more interested in government and possibility getting a job in diplomacy. I’m so glad I got to have this experience, and it is one I will remember for the rest of my life.

Japanese Students:

I learned how amazing it is to be yourself and accept each other’s differences. At the Summit, we all accepted each other the way we are. We were able to become a family because we all expressed ourselves and at times opened ourselves up to be vulnerable. I think it is because of our differences that we were able to work together and create something amazing. 

This experience transformed the way I think about things. Through participating in activities such as an unconscious bias workshop that made me realize how the world is full of people in various circumstances to having engaging discussions with other participants who have diverse viewpoints, I was able to broaden my perspectives. It was also fun to share a room and learn a lot about each other’s cultures.

Links:

Jul 16, 2019

Behind the scenes of Global Classmates

Go behind the scenes of Global Classmates program, an online language and cultural exchange program that connects high school students studying Japanese in the U.S. and English in Japan!

As we are in the midst of preparing for the 2019-20 Global Classmates program, our largest program to date with a total of 70 high schools, 35 from each country, our Global Classmates Coordinators have been busy getting training and preparing to kick-off the program in September. We have six talented Coordinators this year, who all come from a wide range of backgrounds but share a passion for international exchange and being a bridge between the U.S. and Japan.

Kizuna Across Cultures (KAC) ensures a successful exchange program by assigning a Coordinator to each school pair. Coordinators provide teachers support both in English and Japanese, guiding them through everything from how to use the e-classroom to planning activities throughout the program. They also work with teachers to customize the program to meet the needs of both teachers and help all students get the most out of the exchange.

Last month, Coordinators received training in DC on how to ensure a smooth start of the program and talked about strategies to work effectively with a wide range of teachers. The veteran Coordinators shared their tips to the new Coordinators on how to communicate well via email and overcome any language barriers that may exist between teachers. We also had a lot of fun talking about the discussion topics from the past that the students enjoyed and analyzing why it worked so well. The session was so productive and gave us all a boost of energy as we get through this busy time. We are so lucky to have such wonderful Coordinators working tirelessly fro the program!

Here are what some of our past teachers had to say about the Coordinators:

“I believe that the success of our participation of Global Classmates is because of the good organization of the program and the meticulous guidance by our Coordinator.”

“The Coordinator was able to step in and help when I had trouble fully explaining things in English to my partner teacher that it made it easy to take part in the program when I didn’t have a lot of time. Also, my Coordinator’s words of encouragement and warm support raised my motivation level.”

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