New Online International Exchange Program
Cancellation of Ashinaga’s Overseas Training Program
Every year Ashinaga organizes an Overseas Training Program through which Japanese university scholars can intern, volunteer, or study abroad for one year. Since the program’s inception in 1995, over 400 students have been given the opportunity to go abroad. However, due to COVID-19, we were forced to cancel the program in 2020 and 2021.
Find out more about the Overseas Training Program here.
The Start of a New International Program
In lieu of the former Overseas Training Program, the Leadership Training Division at Ashinaga has created an Online International Exchange Program to provide scholars with a platform for international exchange. While the scholars were unable to embark on their journeys overseas, this new online program allows them to interact with volunteers around the world.
The Online International Exchange Program started on May 1, 2021, and will be running for four months until August 31, 2021. The program comprises 1-to-1 conversation sessions between Ashinaga scholars and international volunteers, as well as monthly cultural exchange events. Prior to the start of the program, we spent two months recruiting international volunteers, and were fortunate to have received applications from North America, Europe, Oceania, South-East Asia and East Asia. Our volunteers consist of former Ashinaga interns, participants of the JET program, as well as students who have had to cancel their study-abroad plans to Japan due to COVID-19.
A Good Start to the Program
It has been two months since the start of the program. As participants in the program, Ashinaga scholars and their conversation partners meet once or twice a week to have conversations in English and/or Japanese. These conversations provide opportunities to discuss a wide variety of topics ranging from culture, religion, politics and social issues to anime, idols and food. Thus far, our event-planning volunteers have organized two events that gave volunteers and Ashinaga scholars a chance to interact and learn about each other’s cultures. As a result of our activities, we have been fortunate to receive positive feedback from program participants. Some comments were indicative of personal growth, stating that they were “learning about other cultures,” and “noticing things they had not realized before.” Other comments indicated that participants were enjoying the program in stating that, they were “having a good time,” and were “glad to participate in the program.”
Thoughts from a Participating Scholar
Below is an excerpt written by Mayu Yamamoto, one of the Japanese scholars participating in the Online International Program. In 2020, she applied for the Overseas Training Program, and was scheduled to embark for a year-long training in Uganda. However, due to COVID-19, the program was cancelled and instead, she continued with her studies at Kwansei Gakuin University. She is now a fourth year Linguistics student.
“I’d like to share about my sessions with Robert.
We talk for one hour every week. One of the most memorable themes we have talked about so far is our favorite music and the countries we want to visit.
When we talked about music, I practiced the pronunciation of my favorite songs and we talked about Robert’s favorite music game. When we talked about which countries we wanted to visit, I talked about Jiufen in Taiwan, where Spirited Away was set. Then, I was so impressed when Robert played the song of Spirited Away on the piano!
I’m studying German in university, so Robert, who lives in German-speaking Austria, teaches me about Austria. I am very much looking forward to hearing about Robert talk about living in Vienna in our future sessions.
Before I speak English, I often wonder if what I’m going to say is correct. But Robert always waits for me to think and helps me with what I’m trying to say. Thanks to that, I can speak with confidence. Until now, I couldn’t speak easily because I was afraid of failure. But from now on, I would like to speak more and more, fail a lot, learn, and be able to speak well. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try to talk to your partner a lot!”