Aug 2, 2018

Virtual Exchange Meets Real World

Students from Japan visit US Embassy Tokyo
Students from Japan visit US Embassy Tokyo

We are currently in the midst of Global Classmates Summit 2018 in Washington, DC! Twelve high school students (six from the US and six from Japan) were selected from a pool of 1,700 participants based on their outstanding performance in our virtual exchange program, Global Classmates, to participate in the Summit from July 26th to August 4th. It is an exciting opportunity for students as the relationships they cultivated online blossom as they meet one another in person to discover, dialogue, and collaborate. 

During the Summit, the students are staying together at a local University dorm and are engaging in various activities such as: exploring the capital of the United States; exchanging cultures with each other; meeting with experienced leaders, as well as internationally minded young professionals and university students; and working together to make a presentation on their learnings and takeaways from the Summit. On August 2nd, the students will present their ideas on how as young leaders they can collaborate for building a positive future for US-Japan relations.

Before the students from Japan headed to Washington, DC, they met in Tokyo and visited the US Embassy where they met Mr. Gregory Aurit, Education and Exchange Officer, and Ms. Noyuri Ishikawa, Youth Outreach Program Specialist from the Public Affairs section. The students heard about their personal stories on when they first came to Japan and received tips on making an impactful self-introduction in English.

The students also met with former Ambassador to the US, Ichiro Fujisaki, at the America-Japan society. Ambassador Fujisaki shared his experience as a diplomat and valuable advice on the importance of speaking up without hesitation. The students were also surprised with a special guest, Astronaut Mr. Norishige Kanai. One by one, they asked Mr. Kanai questions and got to shake his hand. To say they were excited is an understatement!

The pre-departure programs have helped the students from Japan well and they are all making the most of this unique opportunity to learn and make lasting friendships. We cannot wait to share about the students’ experience in Washington, DC as well!

Visiting Ambassador Fujisaki and Astronaut Kanai
Visiting Ambassador Fujisaki and Astronaut Kanai
Students from Japan arrived in DC!
Students from Japan arrived in DC!
12 students from the US and Japan meet!
12 students from the US and Japan meet!

Links:

May 7, 2018

Making Lasting Friendships

Murasakino High School (Kyoto, Japan)
Murasakino High School (Kyoto, Japan)

As we wrapped up the 2017-18 Global Classmates program, our biggest program yet with 1,709 students from 62 high schools from across the U.S. and Japan, we were excited to see that it was also our most successful program with a 95% satisfaction rate! These phenomenal results are due to the outstanding teamwork of our participating teachers and Coordinators, as well as our dedicated supporters of the program. So thank you all so much!

Over the duration of the program, 63,284 comments were shared amongst participants, with one student posting an astounding 361times! Students discussed a wide range of topics such as “favorite food,” “festivals and holidays,” “people I respect,” “if you could be someone for a day,” “best present ever,” and much more. The students enjoyed sharing and learning from one another, often times finding out that they have a lot more in common than they initially thought.

Even the students who were not very interested in other countries initially, began to enjoy finding out about other cultures. Through engaging with people their own age, they began to feel more connected to their partner country and culture. The students also increased their understanding and awareness of their own culture by sharing things about their daily lives and culture, and answering questions using photos.

94% of students believe they know more about each other’s culture, while 88% of students responded that participating in Global Classmates strengthened their desire to learn more about other cultures through study abroad. In addition, 90% of students responded that their desire to continue studying Japanese/English became stronger.

Below are some quotes from participants:

It was fun and interesting to learn about a new culture and also interact with people from halfway across the planet. It was an enriching experience that broadened my horizon. It made me more eager to visit a foreign country and to study abroad in the future.

I learned to better communicate with others without fear. I learned talking with strangers is not as scary as it may seem and that even those across the ocean are very similar to me. 

Before participating in this program, I used to think that I want to make American friends so I can improve my English. After participating in a fun exchange, I am happy that my English improved but I am happier about the bond and friendship that I made with them. I realized the importance of this bond. I am so happy to have realized this and am happy with the experience.

Global Classmates was my first opportunity to regularly interact with people who actually live in Japan and it was really interesting to learn about the life and thoughts of normal Japanese high school students. The topics were engaging and allowed for lots of discussion. Even though we never got to meet the students of our partner school in person, by the end of the program it felt like we have been friends for a long time.

We are so happy to hear the positive impact that our Global Classmates program has had on students and are more motivated than ever to bring this experience to more students. As we dive into preparing for the 2018-19 Global Classmates program, we cannot wait to see what kind of fun experiences the students will have. Please stay tuned!

Coeur d'Alene High School (Idaho)
Coeur d'Alene High School (Idaho)
Sapporo Keihoku Commercial HS (Hokkaido, Japan)
Sapporo Keihoku Commercial HS (Hokkaido, Japan)
South County High School (Virginia)
South County High School (Virginia)
Ueda High School (Nagano, Japan)
Ueda High School (Nagano, Japan)
Boonsboro High School (Maryland)
Boonsboro High School (Maryland)

Links:

Feb 6, 2018

School Visits in Japan Provide Great Insight

Students at Fukuoka Futaba High School
Students at Fukuoka Futaba High School

In December KAC President, Ayako Smethurst, and I visited seven high schools around Japan that are participating in Global Classmates. As always, it was a joy to meet the teachers and students participating in the program and learn more about how they are implementing the program into their classroom and the impact the program is having on them.

What quickly became clear is that students truly enjoy being able to connect with teens in the U.S. and learn English in a natural and practical way. Their stories provided insight into what it is that moves them. Below are several fun examples:

A boy from Toho Jr. and Sr. High School (Tokyo) lit up as he talked about the “Takis” (spicy tortilla chip) that he received as part of the omiyage gift exchange project. Soon after consuming them, he scoured the internet to find where he could buy it in Japan, but soon realized he can only get it in the U.S. With a big smile he proclaimed, “Now I just need to go to the U.S. to buy it!” He is also enjoying English now, proclaiming, “last year I hated English, but this year I get to talk to American students and learn from them. It’s fun!”

A girl from Yamasaki High School (Tokyo) proudly showed me her weather app on her cell phone saying, “I added the weather for where our partner school is located in California because I’m always curious how the weather is where they are.” She said she checked it daily and hopes she can go there someday.

And two girls from Himeji Shikisai High School (Hyogo) talked about their personal connections to specific students at their partner school in the U.S. One girl talked about her new friend and said, “I think she knows more about Japanese games than I do! Now we’ve become close over this and share various things with one another. I love being able to talk with her.” Another girl revealed through giggles how she wanted to talk more with one boy at her partner school, but didn’t know what to say. She said, “When we wrote our self-introductions he said he liked Pokemon, and I do, too. I got really excited and want to talk with him more now.” Then with a smile she said, “I need to figure out what to say to him!”

We hope this experience will motivate the students to continue their study of the foreign language, learn about each other’s cultures and even study abroad in the future. Perhaps one day, some of the students will meet each other in person! 

Kobe Commercial High School
Kobe Commercial High School
A student checks the partner school's weather
A student checks the partner school's weather
Saga Agricultural High School posting comments
Saga Agricultural High School posting comments

Links:

 
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