One Semester Exchange Programs Spark Intellectual Development
An Introduction to International Activities during 2008-9 by the Director of the International Affairs Centre, David McMurray, Professor of Intercultural Studies at The International University of Kagoshima.
One Semester Exchange Programs Spark Intellectual Development
1,209 freshmen registered to study at IUK, the International University of Kagoshima from April 2008. During this year, the ongoing process of globalization connected people in southern Kyushu to even more employment opportunities, more diverse business relationships and professional associations, increased innovative technological competition, heightened exposure to world health problems, and widened social and family ties beyond national borders. Are these new IUK students prepared to engage in this more global society?
Studying abroad is an activity that as many of these university students as possible should take part in. Study abroad provides academic credit-bearing experiences that allow students to gain from taking university subject matter or working on internships and daily living experiences including home stays at several international destinations. This opening gambit is debatable, yet it is not unrealistic to aspire to provide the opportunity for all 4,500 junior college, university and graduate school students at IUK to gain from an international study experience. And in the process to open our university doors to allow in exchange, international students from other campuses in Japan and from abroad to intellectually develop.
I propose 4 additional hypotheses:
- One semester and year-long immersion programs spark more intellectual development than short-term 10-day to 30-day intensive programs.
- Teacher-led short-term courses from one week to one month are more beneficial for groups of students than if the students travel independently to take the short-term course.
- Studying abroad for a short-term as a university student is better than never having gone abroad to study.
- Participating in international events on the IUK campus allows for limited understanding of life abroad, but assists in the understanding of how students from other countries cope with assimilation and adjustment problems in Japan.
When turning the pages of this 2008-9 Annual Activity Report from the International Affairs Centre please note the student and faculty reports. Based on these essays that were voluntarily written, can you assess whether these international exchanges have been successful? Can you determine how studying abroad fits into academic life at IUK? Specifically, can you better judge what these students and professors are gaining from their study abroad experiences?
For the students, studying abroad is almost always an eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime but hope-to-return-soonto experience. Seminar supervisors for the most part enjoy talking to their returning students, seeing the changes in them, and judging how much they have grown. Gains usually include:
(1) Measurable improvement in language skills.
(2) Acquiring some cultural understanding and learning how to adapt to new cultures.
(3) Some country-specific knowledge that can be applied to course work in Japan.
Is studying abroad a serious academic endeavor? Do international students develop intellectually more so than classmates who do not travel abroad? Intellectual development measures a student’s ability to think in complex ways, to view and to interpret information in a diverse and pluralistic world, to embrace multiple viewpoints, to relatively weigh different views rather than to accept rigid black and white arguments, and ultimately to think with a sophisticated intellect and to hold more responsible world views. Are study abroad students better prepared to thrive in this more global society?
Almost everything a study abroad student experiences is a new and challenging learning opportunity. Getting breakfast, catching a bus, raising a hand to ask or answer a question in class, and communicating with and understanding classmates and professors are stimuli requiring adaptation, but not necessarily assimilation.
Students who stay for one semester or more are likely to encounter culture shock, the stress and feelings of helplessness experienced in other countries. International students can become sad and lonely when the familiar signs and activities of their daily lives in their home country disappear and are replaced by new cultural experiences in the new country. Overcoming culture shock by communicating more with local people and experiencing local activities can help students to develop intellectually and to become more complex in thinking.
Taking a credit course on a subject related to one’s major but in a foreign language is a formidable, yet rewarding challenge. The essays printed in this report reflect on student experiences at universities and graduate schools abroad. Students reflect on their discoveries as a learner in an overseas environment. They sometimes list the titles of a credit course they took, its content, how they were evaluated, and what the teacher were like. When reading these essays, try to glean what the students learned about themselves as learners. Note if students write about their appreciation for professors who encourage classroom discussions of multiple opinions or professors who do not provide the right versus the wrong answers.
The International Affairs Centre organizes the following opportunities for travel abroad on a reciprocal exchange basis with partner universities. Students participating in these programs are eligible for financial scholarships from IUK and/or JASSO and JENESYS. Students do not have to pay tuition to the partner universities and in most cases do not have to pay for accommodation or local transportation costs.
Students generally take one of two common academic program models. One is for students to study the language of the host country in a university with other Japanese or non-host country students. These classes are designed for foreigners and are not credit-bearing for host-country students who might audit the classes. To gain the maximum of 30-credits at IUK, however, it is no longer sufficient for students to take only foreign language courses overseas. A second model that is becoming more popular is the direct placement experience in which a student takes the same curriculum as the host country students. Currently students who come to IUK are offered this direct placement experience with few specially organized language classes.
(1) One semester and one-year academic-credit bearing Junior College, Undergraduate and Graduate Course study abroad programs to and from Canada (Prince Edward Island, Laval, Georgian College), China (Dalian, East China), Taiwan (National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences, National Taiwan Normal), Korea (Kyung Hee), and America (Clarke College).
(2) Staff and teacher-lead 10-day Language and Culture study abroad non-credit bearing program to and from KUAS, National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences.
During 2008-9 the International Affairs Centre assisted the dispatch of 15 students to universities that IUK has signed agreements with.10 studied for one or two semesters (The number of students going abroad is increasing as16 students were dispatched by September 2009), and 5 students studied the Chinese language and culture for 10 days for the first time at National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences. In exchange, international visitors to IUK include international students from Nagoya University, high school students from Santa Rosa, and university and graduate students from KUAS who studied Japanology, and international students from regional universities in Kyushu. 10 exchange students stayed on campus for one or two semesters from Prince Edward Island University, Kyung Hee, NTNU, KUAS, and Dalian. 90 international students study full-time at IUK in the 2008-9 academic year. Since 2007 IUK has continued to increase its complement of international students, whereas other the number of international students at universities in Kagoshima Prefecture have decreased.
The International Affairs Center carried out a 10-point strategic plan for 2008-9.
- Calved the responsibilities and duties for the recruitment of overseas students to staff in the Student Affairs Centre.
- Completed training of a new Manager and Officer.
- Sought counsel from International Affairs Committee members.
- Implemented a 10 per cent across the board cut in the operating budget
- Received more scholarships from JASSO.
- Drafted a new memorandum of understanding for the exchange of professors from UPEI who teach 2 to 3 week courses.
- Formalized a memorandum of understanding with KUAS for short-term courses and renewed 5-year agreements.
- Made overtures to ECU and city international centres in Perth, Australia.
- Increased the number of exchange students.
- Increased public relations overseas.
Additional opportunities for IUK students who want to receive from 1 to 8 academic credits for going abroad include the following programs organized by the Registrar and Faculties of Intercultural Studies or Economics with the assistance of travel agencies. The tuition for these non-scholarship programs are paid for by students. Short-term intensive language study abroad programs are faculty led by teacher chaperones, and receive assistance from staff in the Registrar Office or Career Design Centres. The programs do not have reciprocal exchange opportunities inviting international students back to IUK.
(1) Teacher-led non-exchange short term overseas experience trips often with home stays for 7-days to 20-days in America (Santa Rosa, Dubuque), and China (Shanghai).
(2) Teacher-led non-exchange intensive language study abroad courses for 10-days to 30-days at universities in Washington; London; Dalian; Seoul; Salamanca, Paris, and Germany.
(3) Overseas non-exchange work-experience internship programs at a Call Centre in China (Dalian).
(4) Teacher-lead research seminar excursions to Thailand, Korea, Canada and other locations.
The goals of these short-term language, internship, and seminar study programs likely include:
(1) The motivation to improve language skills on return to IUK.
(2) Making the world a better place, as mentioned as a goal for students in the department of foreign languages.
(3) Career-relevant skills.
In the 2009-10 Annual Activity Report from the International Affairs Centre I hope to update you on our progress with the following 10-point strategic plan.
- Create a Japanology Course to be offered to international students in the English language. English speaking students will be invited to study Japanology in Kagoshima and learn about society, culture, corporate rules and customs. Attractive educational offerings.
- Support the development of a Japanese program for international students.
- Dispatch students who take credit courses with content in English.
- Develop intensive courses taught in English by professors from overseas.
- Implement agreement with Edith Cowan University, Australia.
- Balance IUK’s current receiving information-from-around-the-world mode to include a dissemination-ofinformation mode.
- Enrich existing international bilateral exchanges. Progress from international bilateral exchanges to trilateral exchanges.
- Build cross-cultural experiences into everyday IUK campus affairs.
- Identify university undergraduate and graduate school courses where students can take courses conducted in English.
- Develop the individuality and presence of IUK for international students.
Gather and dispatch international academic talent on short-term exchange.