Kanazawa University Program 2018
A New Experience
For two weeks, we welcomed 11 students from Kanazawa University located in Japan. The main focus for these students was to immerse themselves in a new culture and improve their English communication skills. For many of these students, it was the first time they left Japan, so this was a brand new adventure for them. Their English speaking abilities may not have been the best, but over the next two weeks they would have no choice but to try. The students were placed with host families that they would be staying with throughout the duration of their trip to really get a full immersion. After a welcome dinner, orientation, and city tour, they were ready to get started on this new experience.
Since the program was only two weeks long, it was jam-packed with activities and experiences. The students visited many companies and organizations like the Saigon Hi-Tech Park Incubation Center, Bimedtech, the Stem Cell Institute, the Cancer Research Laboratory, and the Japanese yogurt company Yakult. This gave the students an idea of what business in Vietnam is like and how things operate here versus in their home country. They also attended an English class at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Science. One of their first assignments from their American teacher was to give a short speech about themselves and why they decided to come to Vietnam. She also assigned them tasks like asking a random stranger to take a picture with them or other tasks that maybe did not quite make sense at the time. But of course intertwined with all of these educational activities were fun activities with local buddies and host families. The students visited the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta and had karaoke nights and learned traditional Vietnamese games.
While all of these sound like fun and games, the overall goal was to help these students feel more comfortable and confident in their English speaking abilities. Through company visits, odd English class assignments, and getting to know new Vietnamese friends, by the end of the two weeks each student had to give a 5-10 minute speech about what they had learned. Many of the students talked about how they didn’t see the importance of learning English before coming here, but now that they have made such wonderful friends and had such an amazing experience in Vietnam, they realize that learning English helps to open up the world to them. Some talked about getting lost while by themselves and being forced to use English and Google Translate to find their way home or how having to ask strangers to take pictures for them seemed strange but actually helped build their confidence to talk to foreigners. Many of the activities we had planned for them were of course fun, but deeper than that it was to give these students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and challenge them to use a language they once thought was useless for them. By the end of these two weeks the attitudes of these students had completely changed. They were no longer shy or embarrassed, but they spoke with their new Vietnamese friends and American English teacher with confidence, even when their English wasn’t perfect. Learning a new language isn’t always about mastering it, it’s often just about having the confidence to use it and not being afraid of making mistakes. Making mistakes can be one of the best ways to learn, and now these students can return to Japan unafraid to speak to the foreigner they see on the street who is lost or even prepare for their next adventure abroad.
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