Nov 8, 2017

Fostering deeper connections through gift exchange

Komatsugawa HS students loved the notes & letters
Komatsugawa HS students loved the notes & letters

“Wow the box has Japanese writing on it!” exclaimed a student as the teacher brought in the package that had arrived from all the way across the Pacific Ocean. The classroom was filled with cheers and laughter as the students opened their package. From seeing the way the package looked and addressed, to the actual content of the omiyage gifts inside, everything was new and exciting for the students. 

Students participating in Global Classmates have been enjoying interacting with their partner classmates, discussing different topics such as favorite music and food, different school events they’ve had this fall, and what’s trending in their country. As the students begin to get to know each other, we have them participate in a special gift exchange project called Omiyage Exchange. In this project, the students collect or make small gifts that represent them, their culture, and their community, and  mail them to their partner classmates. Once the gifts arrive, the teachers videotape their students opening them to share their candid reactions.

 The Omiyage project is the highlight of the Global Classmates program for many of the students each year, and this year was no different. Prior to the sending the omiyage, students carefully read their partner classmates’ comments to figure out what they may like and picked out items to send them, along with handwritten letters and cards. Some students decided to buy souvenirs from their school field trips and others went to their local shops and supermarkets to buy snacks and stationery unique to their country. There was even a student who sewed a stuffed animal! The students truly let their personality and creativity shine through and they not only enjoyed receiving the gifts but also loved seeing their partner classmates’ reactions to the gifts they carefully selected.

We want to thank all of the teachers who have made this project possible by coordinating with their partner teachers and guiding their students. While it was a lot of work for them to put together so many gifts, many have expressed that seeing their students’ sheer delight and excitement has made it all worth it. Weeks later, students are still talking about their gifts and it is safe to say that the Omiyage Exchange project has helped foster a deeper connection among students. 

Yumoto HS students wearing their new shirts
Yumoto HS students wearing their new shirts
Davis Senior HS students show off their omiyage
Davis Senior HS students show off their omiyage

Links:

Aug 11, 2017

Relationships blossom as students meet in person

Students visit the U.S. Capitol
Students visit the U.S. Capitol

From July 28th to August 5th, Kizuna Across Cultures held its inaugural Global Classmates Summit 2017 in Washington, DC with the theme, How can we strengthen future people-to-people ties in US-Japan relations? The Summit brought together twelve high school students from the US and Japan, who were selected from a pool of nearly 1,350 participants of our virtual exchange program in the previous year.  The students met each other in person for the first time after spending six months this past school year communicating electronically to learn about each other’s culture, language, policies and lifestyle. 

Ayako Smethurst, our President and Co-founder, comments, “We are very excited about evolving these successful virtual exchanges into an in-person collaboration that will serve as an example and inspiration for many young people on how friendship with peers abroad can lead to positive impacts on the relationship between their nations and the broader international community.”

 During the Summit, the students lived under the same roof and participated in various activities ranging from teambuilding exercises to meeting international leaders and experts. At the end of the program the participants reflected on what they have learned and shared their proposals to tackle common challenges in US-Japan relations and in the broader international community.

Our inaugural Global Classmates Summit concluded with many tears and hugs as students said their goodbyes. It was amazing to see their personal growth and tight bonds of friendship they formed with one another over the 9-day Summit. Even as they began their travels home, they continued to chat via LINE and facetime calls. We can't wait to see how the lessons learned and friendships created will blossom over the years amongst this group of outstanding students! 

Group selfie!
Group selfie!
Meeting with U.S.-Japan Congressional Caucus
Meeting with U.S.-Japan Congressional Caucus
Riding the DC Metro together!
Riding the DC Metro together!
In 'yukata,' a summertime Japanese kimono.
In 'yukata,' a summertime Japanese kimono.
Final presentation together on US-Japan relations
Final presentation together on US-Japan relations

Links:

May 15, 2017

Continuing to connect U.S. and Japanese students

Center for Global Studies in Connecticut
Center for Global Studies in Connecticut

We are in the midst of preparing for the 2017-18 Global Classmates program! In this 6th year of the program we received a record number of 126 applications from high school teachers all across Japan and the U.S.! We are thrilled for the increased recognition of our program and the many wonderful teachers who have applied. It will be difficult to choose just 60 high schools to participate this year!

While the teachers who apply for the program come from all different backgrounds and teach at schools of all sizes, regions, and academic circumstances, they all share a common passion to provide their students with a unique opportunity to connect with their peers abroad and gain practical language skills. Through the exit survey we conduct at the end of the program, we see that the teachers’ expectations are being met and we are making a real impact on the program’s three pillars: cultural exchange, collaborative language learning, and fostering international friendship.

Roughly 90% of students from this past year’s program agreed that participating in Global Classmates increased their knowledge about each other’s culture; desire to visit the other’s country; motivation to communicate in the foreign language; and desire to further seek international experiences such as study abroad. 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.

Below are some quotes from the participants:

 I was so excited when I realized that there were people in another country that liked the same things I did. Understanding that even though we come from different countries we can share the same feelings for certain things made me feel a lot closer to them.

I’ve never been able to talk to an American before, but I was able to connect with them, learn about their culture, and in sharing my culture remember the great things about Japan. Also, I didn’t used to like English, but I wanted to communicate with my partner classmates in the U.S. so I began studying English more and more. Now I even want to try and take the English proficiency test. Also, I want to travel abroad now because of what I experienced through Global Classmates.

We are encouraged by the impact the program is proven to have on students and look forward to providing this experience to thousands more students in the years to come. Thank you to all of our supporters and participants who have helped us come this far and provide a truly transformative program for students!

Ueda High School in Nagano, Japan
Ueda High School in Nagano, Japan
Virginia Beach City Public Schools Students
Virginia Beach City Public Schools Students
Murasakino High School Students in Kyoto, Japan
Murasakino High School Students in Kyoto, Japan
 
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