Students Experience Collaborative Learning Overseas on the SECOND Program


Nov 11, 2022

The Off-campus Study Program “SECOND” (SElf CONfirmation and Development Program, Cross-Cultural Field Work) was held over 11 days during the 2022 summer vacation. “SECOND” is a program for international and domestic students in their 1st – 3rd semesters. However, due to the impact of COVID-19, international travel was restricted for a time, and many students could not participate. Thus, program participation was expanded to students in their 1st – 6th semesters in 2022. SECOND aims to equip students with an understanding of cultural diversity and the fundamentals of investigative research through research activities in Southeast Asia.

The 71 participating students split into 13 groups, then traveled through various destinations in Malaysia and Thailand en route to their final goal. Each group decided on a theme for their survey, then conducted street interviews with local residents on that theme. Each group’s destinations were decided by a lottery, so participating students didn’t know where they would go until the day the program began. Students researched and double checked the methods of transportation in the area and their accommodations as they passed through each destination. Students struggled with transportation and survey interviews in areas where English is not commonly used, but through that process, students learned soft skills, such as teamwork and the ability to withstand stressful and difficult situations. At the final stage of the program, students who finished their surveys gathered in Bangkok, where each group presented on their survey results in English.

Below are some comments from SECOND participants.

ALVARADO NOELANI JADE(College of Asia Pacific Studies, United States)

I decided to apply to SECOND because it seemed like an invaluable opportunity. I was immediately intrigued by the self-directed format of the program and the opportunity to make connections with both my peers and with the people in the countries we would be visiting. It was also a great opportunity to gain the experience of organizing, gathering, and analyzing field research. The descriptions of what we would be doing in the application sounded challenging, but I knew I would grow as a person and as an academic in the process.
I had not considered how much communication, compromise and troubleshooting I would be faced with upon applying to the SECOND program. However, my skills in all three improved immensely. I now feel better prepared to face unfamiliar situations. With the knowledge I gained, I will be able to successfully navigate through those challenges. My Japanese language comprehension skills also increased immensely. Finally, I am more confident in my abilities to design and carry out research.

SHITAYA Manami (College of International Management, Japan)

The reason I applied to the SECOND program was because I wanted to challenge myself. By participating in SECOND, I thought I could experience a lot of new things, such as going to Southeast Asia and conducting surveys amongst people whose native language is different from mine, doing group work with APU students in different colleges and years while overseas, and searching for hotels and restaurants in a country I’ve never visited before. Also, I wanted to learn about a different cultural environment in ways you only can by experiencing it first hand – not only in terms of the language, but also in terms of food, daily life, the ambiance, etc., so I applied to the program.

Through this program, I was able to further develop my skills, such as my communication skills, and increase my capacity for introspection. I thought about how I should speak to the local residents, as well as how we, as a group, should speak and act towards each other in order to overcome intragroup conflicts, and then worked to improve our teamwork. In addition, through the self-reflection activities at the end of each day and at the end of the program, I was able to reaffirm the importance of deep self-reflection.

This was the first time a large Off-campus Study Program was held post-COVID-19 pandemic, but the SECOND program was concluded safely. Other than SECOND, APU also offers a large number of Off-campus Study Programs. From this fall semester, all Off-campus Programs with overseas travel will once again be open to students.

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