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Top>Hakumon CHUO [2009 Winter Issue]>Increasing International Exchange through Events Supporting the Daily Life of Foreign Exchange Students

Hakumon CHUOIndex

Persons shown on the cover

Increasing International Exchange through Events Supporting the Daily Life of Foreign Exchange Students

Mr. Haruki Kudoh
Chairperson of SPUTNIK & 2nd Year Student in the Faculty of Policy Studies

Have you heard of the student club named SPUTNIK?
This student club supports the daily life of foreign exchange students studying at Chuo University. The club provides support to enable foreign exchange students to enjoy a problem-free daily life and university life in Japan. Additionally, the club sponsors a wide variety of events for the expansion of international exchange.
For 7 years, the club, which is made up of volunteer students, has conducted a variety of activities at the request of the Chuo University International Center.

The name of the club means "companions on a journey."

Mr. Haruki Kudoh, Chairperson of SPUTNIK & 2nd Year Student at the Faculty of Policy Studies

Mr. Haruki Kudoh
Chairperson of SPUTNIK & 2nd Year Student in the Faculty of Policy Studies

The word SPUTNIK comes from the Russian language and means "companions on a journey." The word is also famous as the name of humankind's first space satellite. The club name SPUTNIK was chosen to reflect the hope that foreign exchange students and Japanese students can accompany one another on a journey of international exchange that is as infinite as the universe. The name also reflects expectations for the club to take the International Center as its mother star and to serve as a frontier in international exchange at Chuo University.

In June, Mr. Haruki Kudoh (2nd year student in the Faculty of Policy Studies) assumed the position of Chairperson of the SPUTNIK club. Mr. Kudoh learned of SPUTNIK during an introduction of clubs directed at new students. He entered the club after being introduced to it by a friend and has been involved in activities ever since. Mr. Kudoh gave the following explanation of SPUTNIK activities: "Through the International Center, SPUTNIK provides support mainly for foreign exchange students, dealing with about 50 exchange students at all times. Other support for foreign students studying at their own expense is limited to individual activities. However, in the future, we intend to provide similar support for both foreign students studying at their own expense and for foreign students who are part of exchange programs."

Guidance from the airport to apartments

SPUTNIK activities begin at the moment that foreign students arrive at the airport in Japan. Based on foreign student information received from the International Center, each foreign student is accompanied by one SPUTNIK member who provides guidance from the airport to the student's apartment. "There are many cases in which the foreign student doesn't understand how to use Japan's public transportation and in which the student cannot be contacted by cellular phone. Therefore, SPUTNIK members always maintain contact with the International Center."

Next, the club creates a booklet containing information such as a map of the campus and surrounding area. This booklet is distributed at an orientation for foreign students. Furthermore, a welcome party is held by SPUTNIK. At these parties, foreign students make friends with other foreign students and Japanese students, and exchange contact information.

All activities up until this point are performed as a single process that begins with the foreign student's arrival in Japan.

Potluck dinner parties

There are also other activities held on a periodic basis. One such activity is dinner parties. 3 or 4 times a months, foreign students and SPUTNIK members gather together in the university cafeteria and eat dinner together. "This activity is held for foreign students who often eat alone," says Mr. Kudoh. Foreign students also look forward to this event. Recently, a dinner party had not been held, and Mr. Kudoh was asked "When is the next party?" by a foreign exchange student.

Selling buchimgae at a booth of the Hakumon Festival

Selling buchimgae at a booth of the Hakumon Festival

Another event related to food is potluck parties. At these parties, foreign students bring dishes typical in their home country. Mixed groups of foreign students and Japanese students are formed and preparation is performed before the day of the party. Then, on the day of the party, everyone gathers in a university classroom to enjoy a fun meal. The potluck party groups also manage a booth every year at the Hakumon Festival. At this year's festival, under the title "From the World's Restaurants," the groups sold foods such as Korean buchimgae (Korean pancakes).

Also, foreign students and club members visit local junior high schools about 2 times annually. During these visits, interaction with junior high school students is held as part of a classroom lesson. "At first, everyone involved is nervous, but everyone has become friends by the end of the class," says Mr. Kudoh. The club also conducts activities to introduce Japanese culture such as one-day tourist trips and viewing of kabuki performances.

Conversation in Japanese. English used for support.

It is common to worry about language difficulties when discussing the subject of supporting foreign students. In fact, many of the club members are students who are considering studying abroad in the future. So, is English ability a prerequisite for being a member of the club? "Japanese is the fundamental language used. If the foreign student cannot understand the Japanese being spoken, then English is used. However, English is limited to a supporting role," says Mr. Kudoh.

Ms. Manami Miwa, former SPUTNIK Chairperson

Ms. Manami Miwa, former SPUTNIK Chairperson

We also discussed this subject with Ms. Manami Miwa, former Chairperson of SPUTNIK and a 3rd year student in the Faculty of Commerce. "At first, I wanted to use English. However, many foreign students come to Japan in order to study Japanese. Through participation in club activities, I came to feel that it is rude to speak to such foreign students in English."

Many people are prone to think of communication in English when they hear the phrase international exchange. However, in relation to foreign students studying in Japan, it is more appropriate to speak Japanese. On the contrary, some members say that they are unable to give a clear answer when asked the meaning of a Japanese word or phrase by a foreign student.

"A variety of languages fill the meeting room (the room where foreign students and club members gather; located in a building of the Faculty of Policy Studies), and I learned that a variety of languages exist in the world," says Ms. Miwa. "I was nervous at first, but foreign students understood me when I made the effort to communicate. I was happy when the students understood my Japanese." As stated by Mr. Kudoh, it seems that it is not necessary to worry about language difficulties.

Encountering different values

Recently, SPUTNIK has begun to cooperate with the Foreign Students Association, a group formed by foreign students studying at Chuo University. This cooperation has resulted in an increased number of activities. There are also many club members who stay in contact with and visit foreign students who have returned to their home country.

Mr. Kudoh emphasizes how exchange with foreign students will broaden one's perspectives. "If you ask a foreign student about foreign news that you have seen, you are able to learn about real conditions that cannot be understood from the news alone. Exchange also presents an opportunity to encounter different values." Mr. Kudoh ended our discussion by calling for active exchange with foreign exchange students. "It is easier to get to know a foreign exchange student than you may think. If you make the effort to communicate, you will soon be able to have a meaningful exchange."

(Student Reporter: Miyuki Nozaki, 2nd year student in the Faculty of Law)