An engaging exchange

By Chi Onyeka

You would think in my experience, after a trip to Japan, I’d be less anxious meeting my Japanese peers. That was not the case at all. I was still the same anxious bubble that was popped after a while.

The class started off normal with a lesson from the lovely Eshita-sensei, then Sally got a call. I could see the students making their way to the science classroom we would later meet in and then came the anxiety. Luckily we had a days-of-the-month song which relieved the anxiety a little when we sang its catchy tune twice. Going into the science room, aw man. Lots of butterflies.

We got the opportunity to sit in the front and enjoy the presentations from the Japanese high school students from Okinawa. We learned about their high school (which made me jealous in comparison to my school), the Okinawa culture, pop culture and more. We had discussions in both Japanese and English. Both conversations were steady going, until we had to ask for assurance from our peers. I believe my anxiety was lifted when we played concentration with numerous topics to choose from. Once I realized through this game that no one is subject to perfection, it was a lot easier for me to communicate. Sadly, this game came after the conversations, which would have been less awkward had it not been for my anxiety.

Teaching the Cha Cha Slide was definitely fun for me. I have a bit of an extroverted side of me that loves to dance, so when we were dancing with the Japanese students, I was finally the normal Chi that talks too much with anyone. So seeing all 33 of the students (Japanese and American) dance to one of my favorite dances at parties enabled me to finally express myself.

Meeting with the Japanese students at Z-Burger was a less formal exchange to me. I was able to converse with some more students over a bunch of fries and a massive hamburger. We were more able to talk about our personal lives, not anything deep, but things like how many pets would they get or do they have. I like the Z-Burger exchange a lot because now since my brain thought “Ha! What’s an anxiety?” it was a lot easier for me to socialize, not only on the way to Z-Burger but at Z-Burger as well.

This Kakehashi exchange was another memory I will store forever in my memories of Japanese Plus, because it enhanced my global engagement not only with people from the other side of the world, but these people were my peers so it was a lot easier to converse with them.

Prepping for the Blue Star of Life

By Bryson Torgovitsky

On November 5th, the day before the Blue Star of Life event at the Kennedy Center, I attended a meeting with the Japanese students who would be working with our DC group at the event. Before the meeting, I had been in contact with Matsuki Koh, a student at the Kwansei Gakuin University School of Economics, about the details of the event. We had been emailing in English, but I planned to speak in Japanese when I met him and the other university students in person. At the start of the meeting, a brief introduction session was held. The Japanese students introduced themselves in English, and I followed suit out of nervousness.

As the day progressed, our discussion became more detailed but we continued speaking English. It became apparent to me that this was difficult for some of the students, and I felt guilty for my need for English conversation. I told the students that I could follow their conversation if they spoke in Japanese, but I would not be able to respond in kind. They kindly asked if I was sure, and agreed when I assured them that I was. At that point, the conversation was about the number of people in each student discussion group. I was able to follow them through my lessons from Japanese Plus, but I was still provided summaries at the ends of key lines of dialogue by the Japanese students. I tried to assure them that I had understood fine on my own, but they were insistent so I relented. I could tell that it was difficult to summarize a Japanese conversation in English, but I admired the language skills of the university students as they did just that.

I hope to outgrow the training wheels by continuing studying on my own time and in Japanese Plus, but I am thankful to our university partners for their politeness during our planning phase. I think that we managed to conduct our plans perfectly at the Kennedy Center and our programs at the Embassy of Japan afterwards!

The Blue Star of Life Exchange

By Jeff Jenkins

The Blue Star of Life Ceremony was an extremely educational experience in both my career and knowledge of the U.S-Japan relationship.

After, the formal portion of the event at the Kennedy Center (in which I gave a major speech), I could talk with the university students about their careers and what they wish to pursue after college and their responses were very insightful. Especially Masa-san’s, because his major is in international relations, which is the same major that I wish to go into for college. During our discussion, I realized that we all had the same dream and that was to make the world a fair and equal place for all, not just in Japan and America, but the entire world. Our bond has the potential to not only benefit both countries, but the entire globe. If we’re able to continue similar practices such as the Blue Star Ceremony, where the youth from both countries can sit down and exchange ideas, it’d be a major step in the right direction to strengthening our bond. Throughout the two group discussions I could hear a lot of interesting ideas on how we could as a group find ways to make our societies better, either economically or socially, even more so because times are changing, and new innovations are being made that could lead to more problems for society.

For example, my group’s topic was about “Technology.” We talked about how robots (AI) could coexist and benefit mankind, especially since robots are starting to become the future of the world. We discovered that it’d be nearly impossible for robots to coexist with humans, especially in workplaces, because robots would kick a lot of people out of their jobs and that would create other global problems, due to the amount of people that would be poor. And this required us to think of various laws and regulations that would prevent such things from happening, such as creating new laws that governments would have to follow to balance out the rapid increase in technology and find a middle ground between robots and humans.

We also discussed how technology could benefit educational systems around the world and provide a fair and free opportunity to gain education. For example, Taku-san explained to us an invention called “MOOC.” It’s an invention that allows people to listen in on college lectures for FREE and it’s available anywhere and for anyone to use. However, people must have access to the materials such as laptops and Wifi, which could also be provided for free, especially for less developed countries around the world that don’t get the proper attention needed. Together we can provide the support needed to give everyone a fair chance at an educated and fair life.

Overall, this event helped me better understand the role that I play in the U.S Japan relationship as the upcoming youth, who’ll one day make big decisions that could potentially affect the world forever.

Blue Star of Life

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

On Tuesday, October 31st 2017 I had the opportunity to go to the Blue Star of Life Ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and met nine wonderful Japanese students. All of us DC students had the opportunity to drop pebbles inside the vase, Blue Star of Life, to symbolize peace and friendship between the United States and Japan.

It was a once in a lifetime experience for me because it was a life lesson that Sally Schwartz taught me and once said, “Life is more than being in a classroom.” It even motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and learn more about our interconnected world. As much as I was nervous of meeting university students and a high school student, it made me realize that they were also nervous and they’re just like me. I wish there were more experiences like this and this has definitely taught me a lot about global citizenship.

Globalize DC joins J-LEARN Fall Seminar at GWU

On November 5, 2017, Globalize DC’s Director, Sally Schwartz, joined a Sunday afternoon seminar, sponsored by J-LEARN, on the current state of K-12 Japanese language education in the greater Washington, DC region. J-LEARN is a grassroots organization created by a coalition of parents, educators, and concerned individuals from the local DC area and dedicated to promoting and supporting the teaching of Japanese language and culture in public schools. The lively presentation and discussion focused on the benefits of Japanese language education for K-12 students preparing to enter the 21st century global economy, and strategies for promoting Japanese in a time of budgetary constraints, competition from other languages, and other challenges. We were happy to share information about our own afterschool model (Japanese Plus) as evidence that Japanese language teaching and learning is taking hold among DC public school students.

The event was held in conjunction with J-LIVE (Japanese Learning Inspired Vision and Engagement) Talk, an annual Japanese language speech competition for university students, held at George Washington University. The occasion was also an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Ambassador John R. Malott, President of the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC, for his work in promoting US-Japan relations and Japanese language education.

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Japanese Plus welcomes Kakehashi students from Okinawa

Interacting with exchange students from Japan is always a program highlight for our Japanese Plus students. So Saturday, November 5, was an exciting day, when our group hosted 23 high school students from Okinawa visiting DC on a Kakehashi exchange program, facilitated by Youth For Understanding. This was our third time hosting a Kakehashi exchange, but our first group of high school students (last year we enjoyed two university student groups).

First, our Okinawan visitors used power point to share information about their school and key features of Okinawan history and culture. Our students learned that Okinawa has a distinctive history, language, and culture, in addition to its identity as a prefecture of Japan. Then two of the visiting students put on an impressive martial arts demonstration. The Japanese presentation was followed by small group discussions in English and Japanese, and a quick game of Concentration – a way for all students to practice their language and intercultural communication skills. Then it was DC’s turn to share an aspect of local culture – teaching the Cha Cha Slide. Now that was fun!

Once the morning program was ended, the whole group traveled to Columbia Heights for lunch at Z-Burger. That’s when the real communication and bonding could begin! Thanks to our partners at Youth For Understanding for again including Globalize DC’s Japanese Plus program in this cool cross-cultural opportunity.

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Globalize DC Joins the Blue Star of Life at the Kennedy Center

On Tuesday, October 31, eight students from our “Japanese Plus” and “Japan in DC” programs represented DC youth in a very special “Blue Star of Life” Ceremony at the Kennedy Center, organized to commemorate President John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday and to promote world peace and environment conservation. “The Blue Star of Life” is a large blue and white globe-shaped porcelain vase, designed and created by Japanese artist Yasuhiko Shirakata. The original “Blue Star of Life” vase has been on display at the European Headquarters at the United Nations in Geneva since 1995. In 2015, the Organizing Committee of the “Blue Star of Life” donated a vase to the Kennedy Center, representing the long-standing friendship between the US and Japan. It is currently on display outside the Terrace Theater.

Globalize DC was honored and thrilled to be invited to identify DCPS and DC charter high school students involved in our Japan programs to take part in the October 31 event. Their Japanese counterparts represented different Japanese universities and one high school. The day began with an official ceremony held in the Terrace Theater Lobby. Chidera Obiwuma, from Banneker Academic High School, served as co-emcee. Jeffrey Jenkins, from Dunbar Senior High School, gave a speech on behalf of our DC students. Pascale Shears (Washington Latin PCS) read a message from former Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, Jonah Nguyen-Conyers (DC International) read a message from the Director of the Peace Corps, and Tara Martin (Banneker) offered a toast at the reception that followed the formal program. Other Japanese Plus/Japan in DC students in attendance were Jazmin Angel-Guzman (Banneker), Maria Garcia (McKinley), and Bryson Torgovitsky (Washington Latin). All students – DC and Japanese – participated in dropping pebbles in the vase, symbolizing the collective will of a new generation of Japanese and DC students to work for peace and environmental conservation.

Following the official morning program and lunch at the Kennedy Center, all students and chaperones traveled to the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence for a special tour, and then moved to the Embassy of Japan for student discussions on topics selected by the students themselves. In small groups they addressed Gender, Education, Environment, and Technology, and shared their ideas with the larger group. This was followed by an opportunity for the Japanese students to share information with our DC students about their lives as university students, their majors, and career goals. The long day ended with dinner at Tony Cheng’s Restaurant in Chinatown. This was a very rewarding, provocative, and intellectually stimulating experience for our DC group.

And our students were treated to one more surprise – their names were imprinted on a new map created by “Blue Stars of Life.”  See?

Blue Star of Life Map.
To read some of our student blogs on their “The Blue Star of Life” experience, click here and here and here.

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