Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gone Seoul Searching in Japan: Joining the USD Tokyo program for the 2nd Cross Cultural Workshop in Tokyo

USD Master's students with Mrs. Inoue!

Students from Daito Bunka University at the 2nd Cross Cultural Workshop.

Walking though the underpass from Shinjuku to the hotel.
     This Saturday I was lucky to join my professor and peers from The University of San Diego at the 2nd Cross Cultural Workshop in Tokyo. The workshop was hosted by The University of San Diego, Daito Bunka University, and Japan Association of Action Research  (JAAR) and took place at Daito Bunka University. I met my professor Dr. Inoue at the Keio Plaza Hotel at 9am after a 50 minute train ride from Kanagawa into the eternally busy Shinjuku station and was ecstatic upon meeting his wife and the 9 other students from USD. They are all here in Tokyo for their 9 day study abroad program as part of their EDUC 500 Research Design and Methodology summer course. It felt so great seeing familiar faces in Tokyo as I haven't seen anyone here yet that I knew from back home! In addition to the old faces there were many new ones as I was able to converse the entire day with a group of Japanese students from Daito Bunka at the workshop. Thank you all so much for such a wonderful day in Tokyo.
At Daito Bunka Uniesity.
    First off we had an opening session in which Suzuki from the JAAR and Inoue from USD introduced the goals of the Tokyo Program. We had self introductions and were left by our professors to mingle with one another. Students from Daito Bunka were 1st-4th year undergraduates and they welcomed us to their University and to Japan with open arms and smiles on their faces. Some of them were very fluent in English and were eager to talk, and others were more hesitant and used the little English they knew to try and converse with us. Throughout the day Dr. Inoue and his wife translated from both English to Japanese and Japanese to English.
A warm welcome to Tokyo and Daito Bunka University.
    After the self introductions we were asked to draw pictures centered upon the theme of "What does it mean to get a job and enter a profession." We were asked to draw a picture about how we felt about getting a job and entering a profession in terms of economical depression. I used as many colored markers as I could find and drew my best picture. Then everyone headed to the cafeteria for lunch together. The USD students had to learn the ropes about ordering from a vending machine to receive their lunch tickets. I have to say, I felt quite confident and adjusted to Japanese culture as I taught many of the students the cafeteria, school, and train processes throughout the day. I didn't realize how much I had learned about Japanese culture in such a short time during my time living here since May. My acculturation process happened very quickly!
The lunch options in the cafeteria.
    Throughout the rest of the day at Daito Bunka, we had presentations and discussions on our rich pictures centered upon the theme. Our pictures were set to represent our amoi and jikkan, two Japanese expressions that are quite hard to convey in English. But after hearing them many times from my professor at USD, they have become second nature to me. Our amoi is something that for me describes our passion and our true purpose for doing what we do. My amoi for doing my research on how music successfully enhances second language acquisition in Adult ESL classrooms stems naturally from my deep passion for playing the piano.
Exchanging gifts from San Diego. Some students were given Shamu t-shirts!
    The discussions were deep and meaningful as each student from USD and most of the students from Daito presented their pictures using the overhead projector. Many of the conversations were centered upon the state of education in the United States as well as the economic depression in Japan. An important topic that was raised was the issue of how Japanese students are able to get a job. In the past, connections were seen as a very important aspect of receiving a job, while now companies are focusing in on application skills and qualifications more than ever. Hearing many of the students stories about their stressful and difficult experiences trying to get a job was very endearing and empowering. I greatly appreciate them for sharing their personal stories and ideas as well as asking questions and giving advice for our own problems and questions. Though we came from different backgrounds and have different native languages, I feel that we were able to communicate our thoughts and ideas on a deep level forging true cross cultural communication and personal relationships.
Giving a group cheers at the welcome party.
    Of course the discussions were engaging and exciting, but the real fun of the day took place at the welcoming party. We headed once more to the cafeteria and raised our glasses the traditional Japanese way while saying "Kanpai." The party was great fun and students opened up to us more than ever and taught us some Japanese customs and sayings. At one point, there was a piece of paper going around with saying such as "Will you marry me" and "Give me a kiss." I came across the paper and said the sentences in Japanese and was lucky enough to have a large group of Japanese students flirting with me as I dared one to plant a kiss on my cheek. I didn't think he was going to have the guts to do it, but a few seconds later my classmate at USD snapped a picture of the kiss in action.
So happy to see two familiar faces from San Diego!
      Mingling with the students and our professors was a perfect ending to an amazing day. Many Facebook friends were added and I even discovered that one of my new Japanese friends from Daito Bunka University knew one of my friends from San Diego and had visited San Diego in the past! This world seems smaller and smaller the more I travel and live abroad. I will definitely be hanging out with him before I leave Japan and visiting him at his part time job at Disney Sea next weekend!
USD students on the subway ride back to Shinjuku.
    I wish I could have spent more time with my classmates, professor, and new acquaintances during the second day of the cultural workshop, but unfortunately I had to rest on Sunday and get ready for another work week in Japan. Since moving to Japan 48 days ago I have not taken one day to relax or hang out and as a result I have missed out on a ton of sleep. Luckily, my body knew that today was the day to sleep for 12 hours, and I feel fully recharged and ready to enjoy my last 33 days in Japan before my teaching contract ends and I embark on a 30 trip in South East Asia.

Additional Pictures...

A cool piece of art inside of Shinjuku station as I walked to the West Exit.

Inside the lobby of Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo.

Walking around the University on a group tour.

Around Daito Bunka University.

A very nice picture to represent his feelings about entering the workforce.

Krishelle did a great job leading a discussion about the state of education in America.

Some pictures were clearly better than others!

A truly meaningful conversation about what it means to become an adult and honor your family.

Another great conversation about facing reality.

Using your skills to the fullest.

Who knew that we would be talking about plutonium?

I truly feel that I am standing in a pot of gold because of the connections I have made at USD!

Getting the welcome party started.


Finally I got my first kiss from a Japanese man!

My new boyfriends.

A wonderful end of the party.

Riding back on the subway.

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