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Spreading Our World Campus

Daniel studying an edo period book on horticulture in Keisen university
Daniel studying an edo period book on horticulture in Keisen university

I woke up at about 7:30 this morning to eat a bowl of oatmeal with yogurt and grapes with my host mother, Tomi, and brother, Hotaru (A meal pretty typical for me in America). However, it would differ when I left with my mother to the Keisen University in rainy weather due to a typhoon approaching.

We were told the day prior that this was an all-female Christian university where we would get to meet with the students, learn some history about their school, and discuss world topics. I have to admit, it was actually pretty fun! We had around six or seven students from the university who joined us during the day there and show us around.

We first went to the chapel and learn the history of the school along with a beautiful piece played by an organ player at the school (I still can’t believe she said she spends up to eight hours practicing before a performance!) Afterwards, we went to the university’s library where they had a dedicated memorial to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They kept many books and articles showcasing the first-hand experience the victims had.

Even by the time it was 11:00, the rain was still trickling outside. That didn’t stop us from being shown the herb garden the university tends to. They even made herbal water from the garden for us to drink while we discussed world affairs with the students. Even though all of us in World Campus Japan comes from different countries, us and the students all had meaningful discussions on our views of immigration, global warming, taxes, and what it means to have world peace.

I believe we ate lunch at around 12:00 in the university’s cafeteria with the other students. I just ordered a bowl of miso soup. After getting to talk to the students a bit more, we headed to the Nagayama Community Center where we would be showing Tama what it means to be a part of World Campus Japan.

For about two and a half hours, World Campus members from their respective countries made a presentation from the day before showing the great things from their countries that they wanted others to know about. Locals from Tama were invited to come to the center to view our presentations and learn more about all of our countries. With my partner, Sydney, we wanted to show how large the United States truly is and how diverse the culture is when it comes to its food, climate, and sports. We were also chosen as one of the four countries to do a dance for the locals (The others being Finland, Netherlands, and Norway). This turned out to be a cultural lesson for me too as we decided to do the chicken dance which I haven’t done in years! Thankfully, the dance is fairly simple.

Unfortunately, Sydney had become ill over the past few days and had to rest today. In other words, I and two of the Japanese students got on stage in the spotlight and taught an audience of about 100 adults and children how to shake their feathers and dance like a chicken (It looks better in person, I promise).

Although the event was long, I got to talk with so many locals and learn more about their life and their experience with America. Even better, I felt good being able to share my culture with so many locals. I can just feel that all of us today made an impact on the community with the event.

Once we wrapped up our end-of-the-day discussion at 17:00, my mother and brother came to pick me up. I got to meet some of my brother’s friends (Who all happen to be 7 years old) and we went back to our apartment. We ate a kind of curry with mushrooms and rice, beef, grapes, and corn. My brother was dying to play the Wii with me after I promised to play earlier. If there’s one thing my brother has taught me, it’s that I should really try to get better at skiing in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. I still have no clue how he had more than double my score.

We finished the night with my dad getting home and joining in on the game. I’m going to bed earlier since tomorrow is the Arigato Event and I want to have enough energy to dance for my host family. I had never done a presentation like the one today before, but I have to say that I’m glad I did. Maybe we even encouraged people to apply for World Campus to Norway and Finland!

Daniel Busch (The United States of America)

A japanese culture day – chadō and shodō

Group picture with the Calligraphy Club of Chuo Gakuin University in Abiko
Group picture with the Calligraphy Club of Chuo Gakuin University in Abiko

When I woke up today, I felt like laying in a sauna. I think it was about 40 degrees Celsius in my room, although it was only 7 am. Atsui desu! In the kitchen, there was already a nice breakfast waiting for me. My host Mom made it for me. She is so kind. It is always fun to talk to her; she hardly speaks English and I don’t understand Japanese, so we lead our conversations with a lot of gestures and simple words; the best way to get to know a new language, I guess.

Later, we drove to Chuo Gakuin University. We were going to experience a traditional tea ceremony, chadō, and discover Japanese calligraphy, shodō. After everyone from the group had arrived, we took a seat in a large room where the students and teachers received us affectionately; they were happy to meet us. In front of us, a young woman, wearing a Yukata, made one cup of matcha tea. During the procedure, she used different utensils and every single movement was perfectly practiced. She seemed to be in her own world; looking at her was calming. I didn’t expect it to be so accurate and it was really admirable. After that, we could try it. Somehow, I was a bit nervous because even the cups are held in a special way! But the students helped us.

We also got to know origami and folded some pretty cranes. While eating lunch, we became acquainted with the university students and their teachers. It was really interesting to learn about the way they live in Japan and about their studies. After lunch, the shodō students showed us a presentation where they were writing on a huge piece of paper. It nearly looked like a dance which was quite impressive. We were involved too and could write on a fan. Shodō is a peaceful and comforting activity; I think everyone had fun!

Later on, we interacted with the students while playing games and drinking tea, which was actually Cola. And this is, in my opinion, one of the best things of World Campus Japan: you meet people from all over the world. You make new friends and enjoy great moments with them! During my short time here in Japan, I got to know so many nice people; it‘s amazing! I spent the rest of the day with my host family. In the evening, we watched anime together, exchanged knowledge about our cultures and laughed a lot!

That day, I made numerous great experiences. And imagine, it was only one day out of 3 weeks, where I‘ll discover this amazing country.

Melina Schmit (Luxembourg)

A rainy day and a potluck party

Group picture with the host families in Mito
Group picture with the host families in Mito

Woke up at 6:30 am as usual when my host mom knocked on the door. This morning however, the plans had been cancelled due to potential heavy rains and so I could sleep in. As much as I was disappointed about not going to the Kairokuen, I was quite tired and happy to sleep for a few more hours.

At 9 I got dressed and had breakfast with my host family. My host mother made a really tasty breakfast with eggs bacon and edamame and my favourite, curry bread.

After we had put away the dishes, we all headed to the Kokusai kouryo to meet with all the other families. On the way we noticed that it actually had barely rained. When we arrived, I quickly joined the other World Campus Japan members for a quick meeting before us all having fun playing games and singing silly songs with the families as well as enjoying the delicious food people brought for the potluck party!

I spent most of the time with my family, but especially with my host dad. We talked about a lot of things together including the education and a little bit about his trip to my country when he was younger.

After clean up, my family decided to still quickly take me to the Kairakuen, but now it was actually raining and very badly… Instead we decided to go visit the Kodokan, an important school where clansmen and their sons had gone to school to learn everything from mathematics to martial arts. The building was quite old but extremely beautiful. Because of the heavy rain, the garden surrounding the traditional Japanese building looked stunning and made the whole area seem like a movie set for a historical movie.

My host family also translated and explained all the panels that were only written in Japanese for me. When we left, the rain was much worse. After a short run in the rain, we made a quick stop at the shopping centre where we picked up some ingredients for dinner which was curry!

After we cooked together and ate, we watched a few game shows on TV together before finally going to bed early. The next day was Host family day, and we planned to leave as soon as possible the next morning and also hoped for no rain.

Sonja van Lier (Switzerland)

Handmade chopsticks and making new friends

Celine and friends chatting with students in Isehara
Celine and friends chatting with students in Isehara

I woke up around 6am today after having a good night at my 3rd host family’s house. I slept in my host sister’s room on the 2nd floor. For breakfast I had a salad and toast with cheese, and as a kind of dessert I ate a sour plum. We had a lot of fun trying to catch their squirrel that they released from its cage earlier that morning. In the end, we caught him and gave him some sunflower seeds once he had returned to his cage.

My host mom first took my host sister, Haruna, to her school and then drove me to the Sanno University where our first activities of the day would start. I was the first one to arrive (around 8:30am) and waited in a classroom on the 2nd floor. When the other World Campus members arrived as well, we had a short briefing about today’s schedule and an introduction of the LOC’s of Isehara. We joined the University’s English class around 9:30am and introduced ourselves. The students tried their best to introduce themselves in English as well as share some of their hobbies. I talked to 4 students, named Yuuki, Tomoya, Kouya and Teruyoshi. They were either 18 or 19 years old and all 4 of them liked sports a lot.

After talking to the students for a little over an hour, we went to the library where we then talked to more students. Some of my Belgian friends and I talked to a student named Ryo. We tried our best Japanese to interact with him and become friends! Afterwards we went to a special section of the library that exhibited old photographs made by the Japanese photographer Uyeno. We viewed one of his most famous photographs of a man named Sakamoto. After looking around and taking a look in some books with more photographs, we went to the cafeteria to have lunch. I ate udon with vegetable tempura, which I both like a lot. It was really good!

Before leaving we took a group picture together outside and then moved on to the next location which was at a carpenter’s place (Kawado). We learned how to make wooden chopsticks there, within 2 hours! The wood we used is also used to make Japanese houses, which I find very interesting. We were taught that we should use wood well and never waste any of it. After shaping the chopsticks with sandpaper, we wrote or drew something on them with paint. It was a fun experience even though it was extremely hot. While we were sweating like crazy, we at least ended up with one-of-a-kind chopsticks!

Next we traveled to the city hall of Isehara. After changing into fresh and more decent clothes, we met with the major. He was very friendly and was willing to answer all questions that we might have. After having a nice conversation about what it’s like to be the major of a beautiful city like Isehara, we thanked him and took a group picture together.

My host mom picked me up around 5:30pm and took me home to get ready for bowling! My host brother, Haruto, invited 2 of his friends from school to join us. It was a lot of fun! We laughed a lot and they really liked practicing their English when talking to me. Afterwards we went out to eat pasta and pizza at an Italian restaurant. We continued our conversation about differences between our countries there and were slowly ready to go back home.

It was a really nice day of meeting new people and experiencing new things. I hope there are many more days like these to come!

Celine Dewit (Belgium)

Tourism advisor gig and playing with kids during elementary school visit

Emma talking about ways to improve Uda's tourism at the city hall
Emma talking about ways to improve Uda’s tourism at the city hall

Yesterday we had a fun day of Zen meditation and some interesting ninja training. One of the most difficult activities was the crossing of the Akame river, using only a small floating device, which I completely failed at. Returning home I was looking forward to a much appreciated rest.

The house of my host family, the Okuda family, is amazing. It is a really relaxing environment with an absolutely wonderful forest view accompanied with the whining of the nearby cicadas. The house itself is made by my host father himself using only natural resources that can be found around the building. It is such an amazing and relaxing environment that it makes me want to stay a lot longer than a week.

However, today we had two activities planned; visiting Murou elementary school, and Uda city hall. Before meeting with the schoolkids we were invited to their morning meeting in the gymnasium, so that we could formally introduce ourselves. We were also introduced to some Chinese school kids who also were invited that day. We showed them our Japan medley dances too. After that we were divided into groups, meeting four different grades. My group was going to meet the third graders.

When we met the kids in their classroom they were really excited to see us. They all welcomed us with a song, and then we played a game. The World Campus Japan members were asked some questions and the kids had to guess the right answer. They asked me what my favourite colour was, but none of them guessed the right answer, which is blue if you were wondering. Then we ate lunch with the kids in the classroom and we got some more time to interact with them. Kana-chan absolutely loves playing the piano and Ibuki-kun is absolutely crazy about labels and ketchup cups.

After saying our goodbyes we went by train to Uda city hall and met up with the members of the tourist committee. They told us what Uda’s must see spots and attractions are. Because we have not been here long we did not yet really know a lot about the city and its surroundings but I have the impression that Uda is a wonderful place witch does not yet know the mass tourism that places like Kyoto and Nara knows, which means that it is a place where you can enjoy the many temples and shrines, without feeling swarmed, but able to visit them in a peaceful and relaxing way.

We sat together with the committee members to talk about the possible ways to attract more foreign tourist; as of now Uda mainly attracts Japanese tourists and only a handful of foreign tourists. This led to some interesting discussions about the future paths Uda’s tourism can take. I hope that they can take some of our ideas into consideration.

This afternoon did convince me that Uda is certainly a place were I want to return to, hopefully in the near future.

Then we returned home to our host families and at night I had a lovely dinner with my host mum, Hinomi-san and the kids, Akiha-chan and Kiharu-chan. In the beginning they were incredibly shy but after a few games they opened up. We probably were too busy yesterday so after watching sumo, first time for me, they went to bed. I spent the rest of the night with my host mum and talked to her some more until my host father came home. After some nice cold beer and some more chatting, I went to bed.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the weeks activities.

Emma Vermandez (Belgium)