Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chikyu Lab Symposium

Short note: One long post ahead. It could be a boring one, but you'll never know until you finish reading the last line.
A symposium with the theme – "Producing the Minds of International Exchange -The Next Step Forward", was organised by the Chikyu Lab of Nagaoka National College of Technology a couple of weeks ago. Held at the NC Hall of New Otani Hotel, Nagaoka, it was attended by the lecturers of the college including the Principal, the college staffs, and the students of Nagaoka Kosen, which was mainly consisted of the 3rd Year students as it was compulsory for them to attend the symposium.
There were also three special guests there, namely Mr Eikawa Hajime, the sub-chief coordinator of PPKTJ in INTEC, Shah Alam, Mr Haga Tomonobu, the head of the Nagaoka City International Culture Exchange Center, and also Mr Kojima Tetsuya from Tokyo Sphere of Tokyo Kosen, which is equivalent to the Chikyu Lab in Nagaoka Kosen.
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Chikyu Lab Symposium at New Ootani Hotel.
The rapid development of globalisation in the industrial world has indirectly increased the demand for the cultivation of internationalism in the field of technician education. The objective of this symposium is to raise the importance of the students as international individuals. For this purpose, various methods to create a suitable environment for the students to have a deeper understanding about internationalism and a suitable program to cultivate this objective will be discussed in this symposium. Besides that, the international exchange activities between the international and Japanese students will also be discussed. Another aim of this symposium is to report the contents of the activities of the GP program and how it will progress from now onwards.
I was considering whether to attend this symposium at first but in the end, I didn't have to make a decision anymore, thanks to Joann who made me as one of the panellist for the panel discussion session during one of the slot at the symposium. More on that later.
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The opening address by the Principal.
The event started off with the opening speech from the Principal of Nagaoka College of Technology, Mr Takada Koji, and followed up with a energetic and interesting presentation by Mr Haga Ryusuke, the coordinator of Chikyu Lab. It was one of the best presentations that I have ever seen, because he appeared to have the flow of the whole presentation stored clearly in his mind already. Holding a stack of small notes, he moved around the stage during his presentation with the help of his wireless microphone, unlike the traditional way of presenting by standing still at one spot.
It was awesome and only second to perfection.
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Mr Haga Ryusuke, with his thick mustache which I think it made him looked like Mario.
When I asked him after the symposium how long he took to prepare the presentation, he said it was only a few hours, and he didn't really go through a proper practice session. I was amazed when I heard that.
Next up was the presentation from the students who attended the International Relations Study lecture, aimed especially at the international students and also the Japanese and was held throughout the year. The subject of the presentation, which was divided into two small groups was regarding what they have learned during the one year period attending the lecture.
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Aki and his Japanese junior sharing ideas about living in Japan.
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Ridzuan, Wei Shen (partially blocked) and Shimotori telling the audience how Chikyu Lab helps the students in their studies, daily life and their future.
The event was followed up with the presentation by the Japanese students who went for their summer trip to Vietnam, China and Malaysia. When I looked at the summary of all the three groups, what I can conclude here is that they realised the importance of English as the global language. It is already an obvious fact that English is the language that is accepted by everyone no matter where we go, but for the Japanese to master the language, it is still a very long way to go, considering the education system in teaching English that they have here.
What I can conclude about the English teaching system in Japan is that they are doing it in the wrong way.
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The presentation by the group who went to Malaysia.
It is always nice to have people, especially foreigners to acknowledge the fact that we Malaysians are friendly, just like how one of the students told the audience about his experience at a souvenir shop in Kuala Lumpur. After paying at the cashier, he said "Sama-sama" to the cashier, and the cashier girl replied him with "Arigatou" with a smile. That to him, is one of the unforgettable experience he had during his time in Malaysia. Although it was just a simple gesture, it will remain in the memory of the foreigners for some time.
As for us who are living in their country, every action we take and every words we speak reflect greatly on the local people. They usually generalise us through our character and when we are acting not according to the norm, then they will have an image that every Malaysian behaves that way.
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Mr Eikawa introducing the location of Malaysia to the Japanese.
One of the invited guests to this symposium was Mr Eikawa Hajime, who is the sub-chief coordinator of PPKTJ, the preparatory centre in INTEC, Shah Alam (previously in UTM, KL). He was there to give an introduction about Malaysia and also a general overview about the preparatory course conducted at PPKTJ before we are sent to Japan. Besides that, he also touched about the Look East Policy which is closely related to our technical course, and how the scholarship system under JPA works.
He explained that although it takes a total of five years (including our time at PPKTJ) to obtain a Diploma in various Engineering courses, the Malaysian government look highly at the excellent quality of the technical college in Japan, especially from the technology point of view, which made them decided to continue this technical course in Japan.
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The audience inside the hall that fits almost 400 people.
The subject discussed is rather heavy for the audience, especially the students from the lower grades and I noticed about three quarter of them fell asleep during the symposium. Most of them who paid attention were the lecturers and invited guest. However, the lecturer who sat in the same row as me dozed off as well.
The panel discussion was the last slot of the symposium and the two of us started to have butterflies in our stomach when the slot was approaching. There is a story why I became one of the panellist in this discussion session. Joann was earlier picked randomly as the sole representative of the international students, but she was too afraid to go up the stage and to talk in front of the crowd close to 400 people.
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Kubota Yuta (5th Year Civil Engineering student) and Joann, who were among the six panelists.
So in the end, I was pulled in to join her at the eleventh hour. As it was held on the same day as the last day of our finals, we didn't spend any time to think about this until we hopped into the bus to the hotel that afternoon. Only then that we started to think of the possible questions and points that we would be asked. This is my first time participating in any public discussion sessions and to make it worse, the medium was Japanese. Ask me to converse in daily Japanese conversation and I think I can still survive, but I definitely have doubts when it comes to talking in a formal function like this one. Like it or not, we tell ourselves to do our best, and at the same time, not to make a fool of ourselves on the stage.
It was during this symposium that I get to dress up in formal attire for two years. The last time I wore the coat provided by the JPA was when we first arrived in Japan and since then, it has been kept in my wardrobe, untouched.
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Mr Aoyagi Naritoshi as the chairperson, with the three panellists. From left: Kubota Yuta, Joann and Mr Eikawa Hajime.
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The other three panellists. From left: Mr Haga Tomonobu, Mr Kojima Tetsuya and me.
It started off with the chairperson introducing each and every one of us, and when I even during this short self-introduction time, the nervousness I had could be noticed from my voice. I just kept it short and simple when I introduced myself.
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Muka tension.
If you notice, there were pieces of white papers stuck in front of each table, in which our names and positions are written there. It is something new to me, because we usually place the name plague on the table when we have an event like this back home. Soon enough, the discussion started with the chairman throwing various kinds of questions to the six panellists.
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Mr Eikawa giving his thoughts and opinions.
Mr Eikawa mainly talked about the structure of PPKTJ and the possible ways to improve the quality of the students before they are sent to Japan. As mentioned earlier, it takes five years before we obtain a Diploma in Engineering course and there were suggestions to make it a four-year program, by admitting the students straight into the 4th Year and not from the 3rd Year.
However, the gap between the good and poor students is still huge that it will be impossible for the weaker students to catch up if that method is applied.
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Mr Kojima detailing about Tokyo Sphere.
Mr Kojima Testuya from Tokyo Kosen spoke on behalf of Tokyo Sphere, which is similar to Chikyu La we have in Nagaoka Kosen. He introduced us the structure of Tokyo Sphere and how the activities are carried out there to promote international exchange among the Japanese and international students.
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Mr Haga Tomonobu, who is the father of Mr Haga Ryusuke.
As for Mr Haga Tomonobu, he mainly shared his experience he had through the voluntary works he has been participating for the last thirty years. Apparently, he has travelled to more than fifty countries across the world. In 1980, he went to Cambodia to join the refugee medical relief project, and during the Sumatra and Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004 and Sichuan quake last year, he was involved in the refugee aid for the affected victims. The voluntary work that he took part for all these years has won him various kinds of award from all kinds or organisations like JICA, among others.
When it came to my turn to speak, I was asked about the ways to improve the relationship between the kosen and the preparatory centre (PPKTJ), and also my opinion about the school trip they organised for the students last summer, in which I helped to guide them around Kuala Lumpur.
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You'll never feel the tension until you are up on the stage.
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At some point, when I run out of points, I will give this look.
It started well for me, but I started to repeat the same points redundantly without realising it that in the end, I didn't understand what I was talking either. I wonder what the audience must be thinking at that time after listening to my craps. I practically screwed up everything, that it was so embarrassing and I felt like leaving the stage immediately.
However, I stayed on until the end of the discussion while hoping that I would not be given any question anymore.
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Taking a sip of water after my turn was over. In fact, I drank almost one full cup of water during the session, to distract myself from being too nervous.
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Joann adding to the points I mentioned earlier.
My wish however, wasn't granted. At the end of the discussion, it was Q&A session and the chairperson asked for questions from the floor. The MC of the day, Mr Araki, who is one of the lecturers in the Civil Engineering Department, raised his hands. My sixth sense told me that he was going to ask either one of us, because we only talked once during the discussion and my instinct proved to be correct. He had a question for the two international students on the stage and his question was something like this;
"We all know that language barrier is one of the reasons why the international students find it hard to mix with the Japanese. Besides this, what are the other reasons do you think that is stopping the international exchange between the two parties?"
What a wise question. And we had to answer them in Japanese, spontaneously with the audience waiting eagerly for our opinions and thoughts. Not wanting to repeat the mistakes I made earlier, my quick mind told me to quote what Mr Haga Tomonubo said earlier, and add a few of my own opinions from there. Just in case you are interested to know what my reply was, here it is;
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Explaining with the help of fingers movements are quite effective.
"Just like what Mr Haga mentioned earlier, besides the language barrier (
言葉の壁), there is also the heart barrier (心の壁). In human relations, "Communication" is the key word. Most Japanese generally are shy and they usually do not express their feeling openly. While it is already hard for a foreigner and a Japanese to have casual conversations, it is even tougher when the two are strangers to each other. When we do not speak out first, the Japanese will never open their mouth first most of the time.
This is a distinct problem that I could see so far, and the main point now is, what are the steps that should be taken to solve this problem?
In my opinion, it is important for the two parties not to put too much attention about who should speak first. Forget about pride and shyness. Instead, they themself should be the one to starts the conversation. When this barrier is broken, the communication between the two will be smoother and indirectly, the international students will find it easier to feel that they are accepted as a part of the Japanese community."
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Miss Takahashi giving her thoughts about the symposium.
I guess my answer impressed most of the audience there, because when the MC was asking the opinions of two of the guests regarding the symposium later afterwards, one of them, Miss Takahashi who used to teach English in our college, mentioned that she was touched by the comments given by Joann and me, because she noticed the maturity change in the way of thinking of both of us in just a year. That comment from her meant a lot me and I acknowledged her with a smile from the stage.
Just before we leave the place, we had a short chat with Mr Eikawa. His wife is no longer teaching in PPKTJ and is back to Japan for some time already. So, he is living alone in KL at present, which made us teased him and asked if he has any plans to get a second wife in KL since it is lonely to live by himself. He didn't disagree with our suggestion, you know while laughing away there.
Before we leave the hall, we had a group picture with Eikawa sensei.
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One happy family.
Personally, it was indeed a valuable experience for me joining the discussion session in this symposium, and I am sure it will help to build my confidence when I join something similar in the future.

7 comments:

specialhuman said...

eventhough and I am busy I still finished your blog words by words.

4 points:

1. Bravo for such a great job.
2. No one will remember what you said. All they will remember was ur attitude, style and charisma.
3. People name all in Kanji. Yours in katagana. Why not use ur Chinese name as Kanji? XD
4. All four were dozing when Miss Takahashi was giving her comments? LOL

period.

Duke of mask said...

i think no matter how bad u think u did, taking the step to be on the stage is already a victory

calvin said...

@ specialhuman:
very well said. here are my replies:

1. i'm glad it turned out not bad.

2. i think they will remember me as the panelist who drank the most on the stage lol

3. they won't be able to read it correctly if my name is written in kanji. furthermore, i'm more comfortable for people to address me by my first name =)

4. you're wrong here. from left: lecturer was looking at his pamphlet, mr principal was thinking about what would be his dinner, student was sleeping (you're correct here) and the invited guest was laughing sheepishly after her boyfriend send her a sms xD

calvin said...

@ duke of mask:
in some ways, yes =)

breachno said...

bravos~

Looks like Kosen are also making moves in opening up their channels to foreign students. I wish I can join this kind of forum. :)

calvin said...

@ breachno:
yes. though it could be just a small step, hopefully it will bring a huge difference in the long term =)

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