Intercultural Communication Center(ICC)Waseda University


Japan’s and My Own Culture with Eyes Toward the Future Visiting an elementary school in Tokyo

Non-degree students,
Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies

In my mind, coming to Japan meant more than doing research about my topic: I wanted to learn as much as possible about Japan’s culture and society during my stay in Tokyo. But I asked myself about the best way to do it and if it should not be a two-way path, in which I would also have the opportunity to share my country’s cultural aspects.

During the pursuit for the answer to those questions, I ran into an ICC e-mail about the Outreach Program: applicants would be paired with a Japanese student to talk informally about how to present a topic from their home country’s culture/society for Japanese children in the 3rd and 4th grades of an Elementary School. Also, during this process, we would have support from people experienced in this kind of activity. I applied and crossed my fingers to be chosen!

My participation in the Outreach Program was one the best experiences for me since I arrived in Japan. Being in an elementary school gives a good picture of Japanese society. Also, we can observe and draw conclusions about the methods the country uses to prepare the future generation. This opportunity to experience children’s behavior in a classroom and their rules made me better understand Japan. It was very good to be among them because they give a glimpse of the future, of how we can make things better if we have a good beginning; in other words, if we have good plans for our children.

Both grades were curious about my country and my culture in a very positive way and in the end everybody danced samba together! The children were so lovely that I did not feel so “gaijin” as I thought I would feel. But the 3rd grade was more engaged and curious, probably because they have not been so bombarded with formal information yet in the same way as kids in 4th grade have. So, if you are thinking about joining this kind of activity, it might be better to prepare a class that’s a little bit more complex or with different information for upper grades.

An active Japanese partner is essential to making the best of this experience. My partner suggested a very good theme for our class and highlighted aspects of my culture that for me did not seem so relevant before, but that would be very interesting for Japanese children. Moreover, we worked together during the whole process and, as our communication was very good and she is very skilful at teaching, she helped a lot during the class.

The support from the school’s staff was also very important. They were very kind and the teachers joined our activities too. The style of the teacher may influence the children’s behavior, so trying to make the teachers part of the class and not just spectators is another important point that I would take into account for future activities.

Lastly, the ICC’s structure for this event is one of the basic reasons for why this program works so well: the proposed schedule for submitting the class plans was very good and the follow/feedback system worked precisely.

The ICC’s Outreach is not only rewarding, but also very helpful for people interested in learning about different cultures and about themselves. The answer for many questions in our minds, including that hard one about our future, may be in spending some pleasant hours with younger students.

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