“I was pushed out of my comfort zone every day in terms of new food, mannerisms and language, and I think it really helped me expand my world view away from what I am accustomed to within New Zealand culture.”
These words, from one of the 16 participants on the inaugural North Asia CAPE Study Tour to Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture, epitomise the challenges and rewards of in-country language and cultural immersion programmes.
From discovering the joys of new food and being welcomed into the homes of host families to share daily life as lived in Japan to gaining a new appreciation for good manners and the understanding the value of language learning, participants hailed the experience as life changing.
As another student commented, “Spending two weeks immersed in the language and culture has made me even more motivated to learn Japanese. I have decided to change my major to Japanese and am thinking about teaching English in Japan in the future.”
In October 2018, North Asia CAPE Director Professor Paul Clark signed an Agreement of Exchange with Mr Masanori Tanimoto, Governor of Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture. Ishikawa Prefecture is located around 300 kilometres west of Tokyo on the coast. The agreement aims to build “mutual understanding and friendship between New Zealand and Japan” through study tours to the Ishikawa region.
In December 2018, with Japan still basking in the glow of late autumn foliage, the cohort of first-year Japanese language students from five New Zealand universities embarked on a two-week cultural and language immersion programme in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. They studied language at the Ishikawa Japanese Studies Programme and participated in cultural activities including learning calligraphy, making Japanese sweets and playing Japanese drums. The students also visited a local primary school and spent time at Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s three Great Gardens.
The students were hosted by families, enabling them to hone their language skills outside the classroom and gain an understanding of daily home life in Japan.
“The time with my host family was overall the best part of the trip for me,” declared one participant. “They went out of their way to make me feel included in meals, asking how my day at class was, and even though my time there was so short, it genuinely made me feel like I was a part of their family.”
At the end of the programme the participants shared their experiences in person with Governor Tanimoto.
To help the students adjust to the new, exciting environment, University of Auckland Senior Tutor in Japanese Michiyo Mori accompanied the group for the first few days.
The students’ ringing endorsements of the programme highlight the powerful impact of in-country immersion, imbuing in the participants a deeper understanding of life in Japan and renewing their commitment language studies.