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 is a program created to help 1st year APU students to further expand and deepen their learning on APU’s multicultural campus. Participants not only learn from cross-cultural experiences, but also learn about necessary learning methods as 1st year students. This time, participants will not be able to experience the program at the local site, but they will learn how to work as a team from activities involving cross-cultural communication, basic cross-cultural research and group work through cross-cultural contact online. Participants of the program will be accompanied by senior student TAs who will assist them in their learning. There have been many students who, after completing the FIRST Program, become interested learning outside of the university campus, such as through language study trips, overseas study trips led by teachers, and overseas programs. FIRST is the first “gateway to the world” at APU.
Professor KONDO Yuichi
Education Development and Learning Support Center
Director, FIRST Program
The FIRST Journey
※The AY 2021 Spring program was conducted mainly on campus
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 】