FIRST is a short-term, intensive program that offers first-year students the opportunity to spend the break between quarters*1 to travel to other parts of Japan or overseas and directly experience Asian culture and society by interacting with local people and conducting field research. The FIRST Program is held twice a year: once in another country for domestic students in the spring and once in another part of Japan for international students in the fall. Since it began in AY2007, the popular FIRST Program has attracted a large number of participants, and in AY2019, nearly one in every two Japanese students joined the program.
FIRST will be implemented in AY Spring 2023 Semester as a program that involves overseas travel.
The biggest feature of the FIRST Program is the hands-on approach to conducting research in an unfamiliar land, culture and language. Divided into small groups, students have to use the language skills they acquire before departing Japan and make their way to a destination decided by drawing straws. Upon arrival they begin their research and carry out surveys based on a theme decided prior to arrival in the country.
In addition to cultivating fundamental research abilities and sensitivity to different cultures, participants will also develop various skills and traits required at APU such as communication, group collaboration, presentation, and willingness to take on a challenge. This program is ideal for students who are interested in interacting with languages and cultures around the world, and the local people of those languages and cultures. It is ideal for students who wish to make the most out of APU’s international learning environment and campus life.
After you enter APU, the FIRST Program will offer you an opportunity to step outside of the multicultural campus, and this will enhance your understanding of what it means to learn at APU while giving you a global perspective. To date, a large number of students have gotten a taste of the outside world by joining this program.
The biggest feature of the FIRST Program is intercultural orienteering. For this activity, students divided into small groups and equipped with only the bare minimum of language training must make their own way to a designated destination in a foreign country. There, they must use teamwork and take initiative to conduct surveys while seeking help from local people. By doing this, students can meet over 300 people, which helps them develop confidence and a proactive attitude. Although senior students including those who are from the destination country accompany the program students, it is the students who take center stage.
Thanks to the FIRST Program, many students develop an interest in studying overseas and go on to join a number of overseas programs, including language training programs, faculty-led field trips, and student exchange programs. At APU, the FIRST Program is your first chance to discover your door to the outside world.
Associate Professor TATEYAMA Hirokuni
Education Development and Learning Support Center Director, FIRST Program
The FIRST Journey
The program consists of Pre-program sessions, Field research and Post-program session, where students work in small groups.
1. Pre-program sessions (one month prior to departure)
Under the guidance of faculty members, students decide their research topics, receive crisis management guidance, and prepare themselves for departure. They also learn the language and culture of the host country while receiving support from upperclassmen including students from the host country.
2．Field research (4－5 days)
As soon as students arrive in the country, their destinations are decided by drawing straws. Armed with a map, a few words of local language, and teamwork, the groups set off for their respective destinations. During the program, students cannot use their mobile phones, and some of the destinations are small towns that do not normally attract tourists. By overcoming situations in which they cannot rely on what is considered common sense in Japan, the students learn to be resourceful without fearing failure.
3．Arriving at the target destination!
Upon arrival, students begin their research based on the topics decided prior to departure. They will need to approach approximately 600 people to complete their 300-page-plus questionnaires. Often, the students are treated kindly by the locals, but they also experience some tough situations. The people they approach may not be able to speak English, or they may face repeated refusals for assistance. The objective of putting students in these situations is to provide them with non-linguistic communication skills—that is, the ability to make themselves understood without relying on language.
4．At the end of the day
At the end of each day, students hold reflection sessions. They discuss the results they have collected and methods for conducting surveys, share the insights they have gained by undertaking activities in a foreign culture, and consider ways to improve group work. They may not always see eye to eye with each other, but this is also an important learning opportunity.
After they return to Japan, the students give presentations on the results of their surveys. Seeing and hearing about what the other groups have discovered helps the students reflect on their own experiences. They provide each other with feedback, and the entire process which serves to bolster a range of skills they can put to use in their future studies at APU.
*1 The quarter system
The APU academic calendar is divided into two semesters, and each semester consists of two quarters (each lasting approximately eight weeks) and an intensive two-month session. Classes held during the quarters are offered twice a week and are completed in two months. This intensive calendar structure ensures positive learning outcomes and encourages students to apply themselves to their studies. Breaks are held between quarters during which time classes are not held. APU offers several intensive study abroad opportunities that students can take advantage of during these quarter breaks.
【 The APU Academic Calendar 】
FIRST (Domestic students) [AY2023 Spring Semester]
The program contents might be changed in affection of the spread of COVID-19 or other reasons.
We are recruiting participants for the overseas study program "FIRST Program" for 1st year domestic students as follows. If you would like to participate, please read the application guidelines carefully before applying.
Approx. 1 week
Spring Semester Quarter Break
Ability to Challenge yourself
Sense of Diversity
Number of Participants
Maximum 300 (TBA)
Early April, 2023
1st and 2nd semester domestic students and Japanese-basis students * Please check the Application Information for other application requirements.
Guidance session will be held Early April, 2023
How to Apply
Please complete the Online Application Form after reading the Application Information and Syllabus carefully.
(Note1) The online application website (Microsoft Forms) will be accessible at the start of the application period.
(Note2) If you have any questions about the online application, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Academic Office.
The above is an overview of the program. Please be sure to check the details from the Syllabus and the Application Information below before applying. (Scheduled to be uploaded before March, 2023)