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Interacting with Japanese Students While Social Distancing

This year, with the coronavirus, many people have been unable to visit the places they want to go to, do the things they want to, and many of our plans have had to change.

I think there are also many non-Japanese students who want to keep living in Japan but can’t, want to study in Japan but can’t, or long to go to Japan but are unable to. Kobe Gakuin University’s Professor Okabe Yoshihiko held a series of five “A Global Seminar on Japan with Foreign Students and Kobe Gakuin University Graduate Students” (May 23rd– July 25th) to provide an opportunity for students to experience Japanese culture, if even just a little.

Participating in the seminar were students from Russia, Ukraine, Taiwan, Korea, France, and China (27 students in total), and Kobe Gakuin University Graduate Students (27 students in total). In the online event, they held a discussion about Japanese culture, and life in their respective countries, and enjoyed some international exchange.

The first to fourth seminar covered topics such as hospitality in Japan, Japanese anime and manga, Kansai dialect, and a favorite historical figure. After Professor Okabe’s lecture, the participants were divided into mini groups each time, in which they shared opinions and discussed the lecture together. In the 5th seminar, the participants talked about their own impressions of the seminar program, what they had learned, and their thoughts on cultural exchange between their own countries and Japan in the future.

Here are some comments from some of the seminar participants!

Anastasiia Skotar (from Ukraine), 28 years old, 5 years of Japanese language study:

“In this seminar, I learned many things about Japanese culture and history, and it was also extremely helpful for practicing my Japanese. I don’t usually have many opportunities to interact with Japanese students, but this time, with the lecture, group discussion, and free talk session I was able to speak a lot of Japanese and have a lot of fun! I’d definitely like to participate again if there’s another seminar like this!”

Moe Tanaka (from Japan), 20 years old, student at Kobe Gakuin University:

“When I participated in this seminar, I was surprised at the international students’ strong interest in Japan, and that they knew even more about Japanese culture than we do! I was especially shocked when we were talking about the students’ favorite historical figures, and someone said they were interested in Old Japanese, and that they liked the ancient “Hyakunin Isshu” poetry anthology. Even though the situation with the coronavirus has made it difficult to enter and leave Japan, I really enjoyed the time I spent with this global seminar—I felt almost as if I was overseas. It was a great opportunity for us Japanese students to interact with overseas students as well. I definitely want to participate again next time. I’d also like for even more students to participate again next time.”

I also asked Professor Okabe for a comment: 

“One of the goals for this seminar was for students overseas studying Japan to have a place to learn about Japanese culture and communicate with Japanese students. I think all the participants in this seminar were able to learn not only about Japan, but also about international communication. I think they were able to understand Japanese history and the Japanese way of thinking just a little bit better.”

Once the seminar was over, participants received certificates of completion.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all online next time!