Since September 2012, Global Classmates, a 6-month bilingual virtual exchange program for high school students in Japan and the United States, has connected over 10,000 students! This year will mark our 9th program with 37 school pairs (74 high schools in total) and approximately 1,900 students.
As we witness the world being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and so many opportunities for youth being limited, we are feeling a renewed sense of purpose in the opportunity our program provides for students to engage with their peers abroad online. We understand that coming up with ways to have students continue their activities from home in case of a school closure is a challenging task; however, as we have accumulated knowhow to run a virtual exchange over the years, we feel confident to provide a meaningful experience at a time like this.
Powered by e-learning technologies, Global Classmates brings quality international exposure to a large number of youth with limited prior international experience and cultivate their readiness and desire for proceeding to advanced international opportunities, while engaging them in U.S.-Japan relations. The curriculum is built on three pillars: cultural exchange, collaborative language learning, and fostering international friendship. Below are some of the feedbacks we received from last year’s students.
Students in Japan:
The special topic "Let's get over the difficulties," which was created due to the ongoing situation of the Coronavirus, was what made me especially glad to have participated in the program. I was feeling lonely and anxious because of the sudden cancellation of school and club activities. But when I saw so many words of encouragement from the students at my partner school, Clarkstown High School, I felt united with them and my anxiety and loneliness eased and I felt a little better.
The experience of seeing how the daily life of American students were all completely new to me and what I considered ordinary culture and customs were unusual to my partner classmates made me realize that the world is much bigger than what I had imagined and full of fun new discoveries. I also realized that despite the differences in language and culture, there are many people around the world who share your thoughts and interests and this big world is connected as one like a chain somewhere. My desire to have more fun conversations has made me even more motivated to study English.
Students in the US:
One of the topics we discussed on Global Classmates was recycling, and another was tech use. It was striking to recognize how similar our concerns were. It was heartbreaking, but also deeply hopeful, to see how much the problems of the new millennium have affected everyone of my generation. Concerns about climate change, technological advancement, online safety — they’re ingrained in all of us. But what that means is that we can all play a role in fixing those problems. And many of our dreams are the same too — we want to go to school, we want to be with our friends. Many students connected over playing similar instruments. I suppose those similarities are to be expected, but it’s really striking to see them in practice. What Global Classmates made me even more determined to do is to work on the basis of positive shared experiences in order to solve shared problems.
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!
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