APU students discuss: “What is internationalization really all about?”

Recently SPA wrote and submitted a full-page special feature article to the SANKEI EXPRESS, a tabloid sub-paper of the Sankei Newspaper, under the title of “Achieving true internationalization”. As part of this project, approximately 250 APU students showed their support by completing a questionnaire that provided the data we needed. This month’s special topic follows up this project with a discussion session with APU students about the results of the questionnaire, internationalization and what it means to them.

SANKEI EXPRESS Achieving true internationalization (1)
SANKEI EXPRESS Achieving true internationalization (2)



What do we mean when we talk about “internationalization”?
For me, internationalization means expanding our minds. Since coming to APU I’ve met with students from all around the world, so I think in that respect I’ve been able to expand my mind.
I think that it’s more than just sharing your opinion with people of different nationalities. When both parties gain something positive out of the interaction then it becomes internationalization.
My seminar research theme is actually focused on internationalization so I’ve read quite a bit about this subject. From what I understand, there are two types of internationalization: bottom-up internationalization and top-down internationalization. Bottom-up internationalization involves people of different nationalities interacting, getting to know each other’s culture, and expanding their minds. That’s the kind of internationalization we’re involved in every day at APU. Top-down internationalization has more to do with internationalisation at the industry or national level, such as developing policies the society needs to accept more international students. We can freely get involved in bottom-up internationalization, but we can’t easily influence top-down internationalization. The gap between these to methods has become an issue and in the future we will need to figure out a way to narrow this gap.
Do you think that we have achieved “internationalization” here at APU?
For me, to be internationalized means achieving a multicultural and multilingual environment. So, in that sense, yes, I think APU is an example of internationalization.
APU also has a very international network. For example, APU holds quite a range of international symposium inviting speakers and participants from all over the world. These opportunities let students interact with fellow students from around the world and help us to develop an international network of contacts. I think that this is also part of internationalization.
At most other universities, the number of international students is small and for the most part they are short-term exchange students. It’s not like at APU where international and domestic students spend an entire four years together.
I think that international exchange is also an important aspect. At APU we have lots of group work tasks in class and I have found that this is a good way for us to interact. These tasks provide a good venue for international exchange.
One thing I’ve noticed since coming to APU is that news and events happening around the world seem a lot closer to me now. For instance, when we heard about the floods in Pakistan, a Pakistani friend of mine told me of how their family was being affected by these floods. So we began a donations appeal. Normally this news wouldn’t have impacted me at all. This is something I’ve really felt since coming to APU.
One thing we do in class is to talk about these kinds of news events and hear the opinions of students from the countries where these events are actually taking place. It was a real culture shock for me to hear the opinions of people from completely different cultural backgrounds. These kinds of experiences lead to a deeper understanding of different cultures.
Have you ever experienced culture shock at APU?
Yes, one time at AP House when we all made a meal together. In Korea everyone eats from the same big plate using our own spoon or chopsticks. I was surprised to see my Japanese friends using the handle end of their chopsticks to take their servings. Also, one time when a group of my Korean friends and I went for a day out in Fukuoka, people on the street would look surprised and turn around at us when they heard us talking in Korean.
My brother had the same experience! He said how people would look at him strangely when he was at a university in Tokyo.
For us at APU, seeing people of different nationalities is a part of daily life. Sometimes when I participate in a symposium, there are people who are surprised with the range of people there and take photos with all the different nationalities. But we can do that all the time at APU, so it doesn’t really interest me!
What do you think APU needs to do to internationalize further?
One issue we have at APU is that students of the same nationality tend to stick together in groups. I think it’s a real shame if students travel all this way and only make friends with people of the same nationality.
In Korea we don’t have circle activities like in Japanese universities. I would often look at the Japanese students and think: “Do you really need to do circle activities that much?” But I’ve found that participating in circles is a great way of developing a team spirit. Adapting this team spirit to your own country could also be considered part of internationalization.
But I’m always happy to meet someone of the same nationality when I’m overseas, so it’s natural that we stick together. But when we held Sri Lanka Week, we only had about 30 Sri Lankan staff members, the other members were Japanese, Thai, Indonesian, and more. One example of internationalization at APU is working together with different nationalities on the same projects such as this.
One of my friends that has already finished their job hunt gave me the following advice: ‘don’t assume that the outside world is the same as the APU environment. We need to know what the outside world is really like and make use of the APU environment accordingly’.
There are lots of proactive students at APU so I think we need to make the most of our time here, meet lots of different people and enjoy the APU environment. Then we’ll be able to find more avenues to make our way out into the world.

Looking back on the discussion, we found that internationalization, at least in our view, is about getting to know people and developing a deeper understanding of each other.
It’s also about knowing our own culture in order to know and accept other people’s culture.
This discussion also taught us that everyone has a different awareness of what internationalization is all about and that all these views are needed and important.