Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University



The FIRST Program for freshmen students held


Jun 29, 2010

From Thursday, June 3 until Sunday June 6, 2010, fifty-eight 1st year students took part in "Freshman Intercultural Relations Study Trips" (FIRST) to Korea and Taiwan.

As part of the Active Learning Programs APU is currently developing which emphasize the importance of practical learning experiences both within Japan and overseas, the FIRST program aims to help students establish study goals and promote students' awareness of different cultures by offering them the opportunity to experience the culture and societies of Asia. With the support of Teaching Assistants (TA) from Taiwan and Korea, the participating students have been training for this program since May, practicing their local language skills and getting things ready for their research projects.

Once they arrived at their destination, the participants met with students from local affiliated universities, traveled to their designated cities and carried out their research assignments. Furthermore, the students worked together to carry out their research and find their accommodation through actively engaging with the local citizens without the assistance of their leaders or TAs. The program proved to be a great opportunity for the students to develop their ability to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions in a foreign culture environment.

On Wednesday, June 16, a presentation session was held for the students to announce the results of their study trip. Looking back on their experiences, the students described how their hypotheses established during their pre-departure training compared with their research results and observations, the difficulties they encountered successfully communicating with the locals, and the variation between the information they gathered in books and on the internet compared to the local reality. A number of students interested in studying abroad also came along to the session to hear the presentations.

One of the participants on the Taiwan program, SHIKAKURA Kanoko (APM1, Japan), gave her impressions, "People spoke to us on the street and complete strangers would invite us into their homes. We had so many experiences that we couldn't have had as tourists. Having seen the diversity of Taiwan with its many different cultures living together in co-existence, and their friendly attitude towards Japan, I am now very interested in Taiwan and its people".

YAMAGAMI Hiroshi (APM1, Japan) commented on his time on the Korean program, "It was the language barriers I encountered on the FIRST program that left the greatest impression. Traveling through Korea I realized the inconvenience and frustration of not being able to speak the local language. This experience has motivated me to learn different languages at APU". TAKAHARA Yuri (APM1, Japan) spoke of her enthusiasm towards her future study at APU, "Taking part in group work and interacting with the locals taught me the difficulty and enjoyment of communication. I am very grateful for this experience as it taught me to keep positive and overcome the difficulties we encountered. I hope to make use of this experience and get more actively involved in activities both on and off campus".

On Friday, August 6, students taking part in the FIRST Taiwan program during the summer session will deliver a presentation. Furthermore, a FIRST program is currently being planned for international students in the autumn semester that will take them around Japan. A display is also planned for the October Study Abroad Fair introducing more details on the FIRST programs.

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