May 24, 2016

Developing friendships and deepening understanding

Center for Global Studies students visit Japan
Center for Global Studies students visit Japan

I got to talk to people in another country and make friends with them. This made me feel happy knowing that one day when I go to Japan, I will have friends already there.

I was able to meet new people from halfway across the world, and learn about their culture and interests. It was amazing, how even though we never met them in person, it felt like we did, through videos, gift exchange, and discussing various topics.

Ever since I started studying Japanese I'd sort of yearned to know what life in Japan was like. Especially for a millennial such as myself, the high school culture in Japan was of prime interest. Of course I could never go to a Japanese high school given my current circumstances, so the Global Classmates program was, in my case especially, a journey into the impossible.

After wrapping up the 6-month long exchange, these were some of the feedback we received from Global Classmates participants. Through various discussions, sharing photos, exchanging gifts, and creating videos, the students from Japan and the U.S. developed friendships, deepened understanding of each other’s cultures, and improved their language skills.

The students were excited to see and learn about the everyday lives and cultures of their partner classmates that were so different from their own. The U.S. students were amazed with the beautiful obento lunches that the Japanese students made themselves, while the Japanese students were impressed by the energy of the U.S. students at a pep rally. At the same time, the students found a lot of similarities and common ground with their new friends. A student was shocked to have found someone on the other side of the world having the same favorite band as him, while another shared the same future dream. The exchange really made the students realize that regardless of where they lived, there were many similarities that allowed them to connect and bond.

 As a culmination of the 6-month online exchange and getting to know one another, some students had the opportunity to meet.  In February, six students from Center for Global Studies in Connecticut visited their partner school Nichinan Shintoku High School in Miyazaki Prefecture. The students from Center for Global Studies attended classes with their Japanese classmates as well as experienced Japanese culture through various hands-on activities.   From picking local kumquat fruit and cooking a meal together, to seeing a presentation on the students’ project on ‘virtual idol’ created with computer graphics, the students had a great time together and deepened their friendships further.

 We are so happy to see that our students had a great time with Global Classmates this year and we are excited to be able to offer the program to more students in September. We want to thank the individuals and organizations who generously donated to make this possible! 

Students at Shiruichi High School in Hokkaido
Students at Shiruichi High School in Hokkaido
Davis Sr. High School students engaging online
Davis Sr. High School students engaging online
Feb 29, 2016

"Our Cool School!": A friendly video competition

Students filming scene on the roof of their school
Students filming scene on the roof of their school

Over the past few months, the students participating in Global Classmates have not only been discussing various topics with their partner classmates, but have also been working on creating a video for the program-wide competition Video Koshien. With the theme “Our Cool School!” students discussed with their classmates what makes their school unique and interesting. Is it their school motto “trying hard is cool!”? Is it the diversity of their student body? Is it the beautiful scenery it’s surrounded by? The students spent countless hours together, often their free time after school, to film and edit a 3-minute video to showcase what’s cool about their school.

Normally students only engage with their partner school during the program, but Video Koshien allows them to watch the videos of students from other schools and explore new approaches to presenting their ideas using video, all while learning about and deepening their understanding of the diverse cultures of their classmates from Japan and the U.S. It is not an easy task for students to come up with an idea for the video together and use a non-native language to present it; however, we were left speechless by the creativity and uniqueness of the high school students’ ideas, as well as their ability to have fun and work together.

One teacher mentioned that when her students decided to compete in Video Koshien, she casually thought, “I hope it’ll become a fun high school memory for them.” However, she was shocked to see the students’ dedication and passionate approach to the project that went far beyond her expectations. One of the students took a leadership role and divided the class into teams to tackle different tasks. They also had to hold an emergency meeting to alter the ending, as the weather didn’t cooperate and it didn’t snow as expected. Through trial and error and working together as a team, it not only became a great memory for the students but also for the teacher.

This year, 22 schools (11 from Japan and 11 from the U.S.) submitted their videos for the competition. It was difficult to choose the winners, but in the end, the following schools won with their creative videos! You can check them out here.

GRAND PRIZE and 1st place, Japan: Murasakino High School (Kyoto)

1st Place, US: Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Maryland)

2nd Place, Japan: Asaka Kaisei High School (Fukushima)

2nd Place, US: Kamehameha Schools (Hawaii)

Thank you for your continuous support that allows us to provide these unique skill-building opportunities and fun community for these students!

Grand Prize: Murasakino High School (Kyoto)
Grand Prize: Murasakino High School (Kyoto)
2nd, Japan: AsakaKaisei High School (Fukushima)
2nd, Japan: AsakaKaisei High School (Fukushima)
1st, US: Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Maryland)
1st, US: Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Maryland)
2nd, US: Kamehameha Schools (Hawaii)
2nd, US: Kamehameha Schools (Hawaii)
Dec 1, 2015

Making new friends and exchanging gifts

Omiyage are all wrapped up and ready to be sent
Omiyage are all wrapped up and ready to be sent

“Is it correct to say ‘Disney Land is very good’ in English?” a Japanese student trying to respond to his American partner classmate asked his teacher.

When his teacher responded, “yes, that’s good, they’ll understand that,” a look of shock and pure joy took over his face. He was so surprised to find out that he actually created an English sentence accurately all on his own, but also realized that he could communicate his ideas with the limited English that he knew. This is a scene we see often with students participating in Global Classmates. As students experience the excitement over being able to communicate in another language, they become more motivated to learn and have fun using the language. 

Since September, over 1,100 students from 42 U.S. and Japanese high schools have been participating in the Global Classmates online exchange. The students have been enjoying talking and sharing photos on a variety of topics, from favorite food and music to what three things they would wish for if they had a Genie. It has been amazing to see the students learn to communicate and discover so many new things about each other’s cultures, as well as find out how much they have in common with one another.

While the students have been enjoying the online interactions, the highlight of the program so far for many was the much-anticipated Omiyage Exchange. It is a special gift exchange project in which the students collect or make small gifts that represent them, their culture, and their community to mail to their partner classmates. Each teacher videotapes their students opening the omiyage to share their candid reactions. As much as the students enjoy receiving the omiyage, they also love to see their partner classmates’ reactions to the omiyage they carefully picked out and sent. The project fosters deeper connections among students by having them share a piece of who they are and where they come from via an exchange of actual tangible gifts.

KAC’s Global Classmates gives students the opportunity to get excited about learning a language and sparking their interests in another culture right in their everyday classroom. This is made possible by the individuals who have generously donated to provide customized program plan, support, and training. So thank you!

Selfies with their omiyage
Selfies with their omiyage
Excited to try some American snacks
Excited to try some American snacks
Handwritten letter with a gift
Handwritten letter with a gift
 
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