Intercultural Communication Center (ICC)Waseda University


Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Waseda ICC Discussion Café

Ayaka-Doyle-Journal-Photo-for-webAyaka Doyle
School of Political Science and Economics, 3rd Year

As I was casually clicking through the various programs offered at the ICC, the event caught my eye: a chance to discuss pressing issues in Japan with students from another university. My interest was further piqued when I saw that this event would be held at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) in Ochanomizu, one of Japan’s premier schools for future medical professionals. As I had recently been yearning for a chance to get to know people from other backgrounds and fields of study, I jumped on this opportunity and readily applied.

Though the day of the event saw skies full of gray clouds and rain, nothing could dampen my excitement. From the first few steps into the entrance lobby, TMDU effused a distinctive air, a kind of professionalism and dedication to the medical arts. As one who had always been interested in the natural sciences, it was exciting.

After the ice-breaking activity, TMDU students (who mainly directed the event) gave a short presentation on today’s objective, to discuss causes and solutions to Japan’s declining birthrate. Students from both schools were divided into smaller groups of four or five; each group then presented its findings to the larger group, from which new opinions and questions would arise and be scrutinized. The hour allocated to discussion passed all too quickly.

To use a much-used cliché, it was truly an eye-opening experience. The smaller group discussions gave us time to talk in-depth about certain topics, while sharing them with the larger group allowed for a broader discussion on a wide range of issues.

My group was composed of students from Japan, Sudan, and Thailand, ranging from undergraduate and master’s students, a newly licensed dentist, and a doctoral student who already taught as a lecturer at a university in his home country. The sheer range of backgrounds, in such a small group, amazed me.

As we were discussing Japan’s lowering birthrate, we shared the different experiences from our own countries regarding child-bearing, marriage, parenthood, and even to the politics behind government legislations. I was introduced to new perspectives that I had never considered, and learned so much from my group members’ unique ideas, born from their varied backgrounds. One of the topics that particularly left an impression on me was the perception of marriage and family in contemporary Japan. Whilst in Sudan to nurture a family was one of the most cherishing things one can do, in Japan marriage, and family in general, is increasingly seen as a burden restricting one’s freedom.

The end of the event came much too fast; the discussion could definitely have gone on for a couple more hours. I especially loved hearing the opinions from all the different cultures represented in the larger group. The room was awash in smiles and earnest expressions as we all listened in. I was reminded again and again of the value of getting to know others from a wide variety of backgrounds and, most importantly, just how enjoyable this can be.

The next time the ICC hosts such an event, I highly recommend you to join. I will definitely be one of the first ones to sign up.

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