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Participant Report on the APRU Virtual Exchange Program
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Participant Report on the APRU Virtual Exchange Program

Tue, Jun 29, 2021
Participant Report on the APRU Virtual Exchange Program
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Participant Report on the APRU VSE Program

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the world and the global higher education sector has not been spared. The pandemic will significantly impact international education for the foreseeable future. With a global membership of over 50 universities, member of APRU, including Waseda can come together to provide solutions and alternatives so that opportunities for global learning are not compromised during this time.

One of the students who participated in the Virtual Exchange Program was Peter (Siyuan) Chai. Peter is a fourth-year student in the Department of Economics at Waseda University’s School of Political Science and Economics. We asked him about his experience at the APRU VSE Program and this is what he shared with us.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us

I have taken the course “Cultural Presuppositions in Japanese Communication” as an exchange student at Keio University in the 2021 Spring semester through the APRU (Association of Pacific Rim Universities) VSE (Virtual Student Exchange) Program. This course is composed of a combination of on-demand lecture videos and real-time Zoom discussions where both local Keio students and students from other universities in Japan and around the world were able to gather to share our diverse personal experiences, perspectives, and opinions under a range of weekly topics.

With the help of the pre-recorded lecture contents, recommended reading lists, and cross-cultural interactions that took place under the forum boards on the Canvas course page and during the live-streaming Zoom sessions, I was able to comprehend the cultural and personal filters of conversational and interactional styles in relation to various social contexts and settings such as private, public, intimate, and distant aspects. I was also able to examine how my own values and mindsets are dependent upon and derived from my past learnings and formative experiences as well as how communication in Japanese might share with and differ from practices in other societies.

Moreover, as a foreign student studying overseas, although I have been learning Japanese including its kanji, aisatsu (greetings), and keigo (honorifics) for more than four years, this is the first time for me to examine Japanese communication from a socio-linguistic perspective through applying the theories and models such as uchi/soto, power distance, and speech level shift presented by the instructor Dr. Rie Suzuki. After this 13-week course, I have come to understand the importance of contextual factors in interpreting others’ behaviors and actions such as requesting and inviting, and I have felt more confident in engaging in future international exchange opportunities. Notably, I have become more comfortable in sharing about my childhood and teenage experiences with others, realizing that we all have more or less encountered moments of struggles and dilemmas in our journeys growing up as social beings or starting to live in a new environment. This confrontation between personal and cultural values is actually not rare.

I strongly recommend this well-organized course to prospective applicants in the APRU VSE Program as it would provide you an updated perspective in analyzing linguistics through the lens of cultures, and it would help with your interactions and co-operations with those from other communities in your future career. Lastly, I am curious to read more books and articles that investigate the intersections between language and psychology. “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us,” as said by Franz Kafka. By making use of the knowledge that I acquired from this course, I wish I could be more perceptive in observing communicative patterns of others while traveling to or studying in other countries as well as in dissecting my dynamic social behaviors with the accumulation of my new multicultural life experiences.


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