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Global Skills

Fostering Cultural Exchanges with Nagoya University Students

students at NC State football game

Camden Wilder started his senior year at NC State in a whirlwind having just returned from a study abroad program in Japan when he was also thrown into the planning process to welcome dozens of Japanese students from Nagoya University.

“It was fun for me to be able to feel like a tourist in North Carolina and seeing what made them really excited about our state,” Wilder said.

Wilder is president of the Japan Club, which helped organize formal and informal get togethers with the group of 32 students from Nagoya who were here on a five-week language and culture program with the Global Training Initiative. Wilder himself had spent the previous six months in Japan, studying at Waseda University, so he appreciated the opportunity to continue developing his Japanese language skills here at home.

“It’s a great opportunity to explore a foreign language from your own cultural perspective,” he added. “Being here and being able to show them around, because I knew the words and the context, I felt a lot more confident in my speaking.”

While the Nagoya students spend much of their time in their own classes, site visits and activities, they also get several opportunities to interact with NC State students in classroom visits and joint activities. NC State’s Japanese language faculty collaborated with GTI staff to develop dedicated cultural exchange opportunities in their language and culture classes. 

“It’s really good for our students to see someone learning their language as they are learning Japanese,” explained Wakako Sera, a senior lecturer in the Department of World Languages and Culture. “They’re a good influence on each other, and I think it motivates some students to learn Japanese more.”

students in class
Nagoya University students visit an FLJ 101 class

Sera has seen an increasing number of NC State students interested in taking Japanese language courses, and she knows both sets of students find it engaging and rewarding to practice their language skills with native speakers.

“When you’re learning Japanese on your own, things can be very difficult because nobody is there to check if your pronunciation is correct or the words you’re using are correct, but when you have that direct feedback with people, I feel like I’m really expanding my learning,” explained Miles Hollifield, a senior who is majoring in computer science and minoring in Japanese language and business entrepreneurship.

Hollifield also appreciated the experience of what he called a mixing and mingling of the two cultures.

“We get to see in whatever experience we do, how each culture interacts with it,” he added. “We took the Nagoya students to watch a women’s soccer match, the NC Courage team, and one of the students was fascinated by how American crowds react to goals and how an American soccer game is run.”

students at nc courage game
Students at an NC Courage match

For Wilder, the casual cultural exchanges were just as memorable and important as the organized events and activities.

“My friends and I went bowling spontaneously with four of the Nagoya students, and it was just a fun time joking around where I could experiment with English-Japanese phrases that I had heard but not really used before,” he said.

Wilder is planning to graduate in May with a double major in business information technology and Japanese language and culture. He’s applying to join the Japan Exchange and Teaching program and is looking forward to reconnecting with his new friends in their home country.

“We’re going to do the reverse and hopefully they can show me around Nagoya,” he added.