Intercultural Communication Center (ICC)Waseda University

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Participant Report: Friendship Building through ICC Language & Culture Exchange Program

Jean Miwa
School of Culture, Media and Society

I remember scrolling through Waseda’s official website in the previous year and came across the Intercultural Communication Center, which at that time I found very interesting since I’ve always wanted to explore many different things while making use of both my English and Japanese skills. Of all the events and programs offered by the ICC, I chose to participate in the Language and Culture Exchange Program, in hopes of expanding my interactions with different people. Although this year is my first time participating in the program, I must say that the experience really made an impact on my college life, especially since we’re currently dealing with the pandemic.

In the previous semester, I was paired with two Japanese girls; one was a freshman in the same faculty as I am (School of Culture, Media and Society), and the other was in the School of Education. At first, I was quite surprised to be paired with people from a lower grade, however, meeting them in person several times, I thought it was a really fun experience and that we’ve learned so many things from each other, especially things that are school-related. As a sophomore who had experienced college life at Waseda before my partners did, I was able to talk about how things have been quite tough with online classes and a bunch of restrictions. As expected, my partners were worried about the exact same things, as they are just at the beginning of their college life; however, it was really interesting how we all managed to help each other, not just in understanding the differences between our cultures but also the ways we adapt to the current situation.

My partners and I had met in person quite a lot over the semester, both inside and outside of campus to talk about our ways of learning English and Japanese, as well as our experiences abroad. As someone who had lived outside of Japan for many years, I was not very confident with my Japanese language skills and the Japanese culture. As for my partners, they were very hesitant in speaking English, especially in longer and more meaningful conversations. I think being able to use one’s strength to help understand someone else’s weakness is what made our time together really worthwhile.

At one point, I completely forgot that we were participating in the program since the way we interacted with each other seemed very natural as if we all had met during the first day of school. Later on, I realised how being involved in a cultural exchange program is more than just learning about each other’s cultural backgrounds. I think it becomes more of building friendships with others while recognising the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. At least, that’s what I have learned and gained in participating in this program.

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