Using APU’s Online Resources and Multicultural Campus to Offer Alternative FIRST International Program


Jun 28, 2021

APU’s intercultural study program for first year students, FIRST (Freshman Intercultural Relations Study Trip), was held from Wednesday, May 5 to Friday, June 4, 2021. The FIRST program is an introductory level program that fosters intercultural understanding and cross-cultural experience. Through this program, many first-years develop intercultural understanding, research skills, communication skills, and a willingness to challenge themselves that will aid them both at APU and in society at large. In past years, students have traveled to Taiwan or South Korea to conduct research activities using Chinese or Korean with local citizens. Since it was impossible for students to travel to on-site research locations during the COVID-19 pandemic, students conducted their research on-campus while taking advantage of APU’s multicultural environment and online resources.

There were 206 participants in this year’s FIRST program. They were divided into small groups of about 5 people, and supported by pairs of TAs consisting of one domestic and one international student. In pre-program sessions taught by faculty, students learned how to choose research topics as well as methods for research and analysis, presentation skills, etc. to prepare their group’s project. Then, students conducted research on-campus from May 31 to June 2.

While doing field research, students found interviewees from the target country or region on campus, gave them questionnaires or interviewed them, and asked interviewees to introduce them to friends or acquaintances in their home country who could participate in online research. Each group took any steps available in order to improve the quantity and quality of their research as much as possible.

Final presentations took place on June 4. Although this was just a trial run of the on-campus version of this program, the final presentations were very impressive thanks to participants’ flexible approach when selecting their research topics and perseverance in conducting challenging research.

Below are some comments from participating students.

Kei Usui, College of Asia Pacific Studies (APS)

Through the FIRST Program, I came to understand, “There are no limits to learning.” During the fieldwork portion of the program, our group hit many walls. For example, it was difficult to reach respondents from our target country, and we had difficulty communicating in English. However, we discussed these issues as a group, and then repeated the process of planning, carrying out the plan, and reflecting upon the results. Through this process, I believe we were able to achieve much more than was asked of us. Once one issue gets solved, a new one arises. That is the greatest allure of the FIRST Program. There is no final goal to learning. The things I learned through the FIRST Program will not cease to be useful or relevant. In fact, I want to continue to use the things I learned and the skills I gained to tackle the many challenges I will encounter in my future at APU.

Koya Machida, College of International Management (APM)

I decided to participate in the FIRST Program to develop a proactive attitude and work on my discussion skills. Through various research activities, such as a phone call to the New Zealand Embassy and interviews in English with people I had never met before, I became able to do things that I could have only imagined myself doing before. Also, during our discussions, there were many times when our group members’ opinions differed. However, each time that happened, we paused our conversation, came back to the subject we disagreed on, and kept discussing it until everyone agreed. Through that process, I realized both how difficult and how fun it is to work together as a team to come up with one idea. In the future, I want to make use of the proactive attitude and the discussion skills I cultivated while participating in the FIRST Program by actively participating in both on-campus and off-campus programs. By doing so, I hope to exchange opinions with a variety of different people and continue to expand my horizons.

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