Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another Farewell Party

The farewell party to celebrate the leaving seniors was continued several days after the first one, this time it was organised by the college. Attended by the Principal himself and a number of lecturers and representatives from the college including the seniors' tutors and other Japanese students, it was an event to bid farewell to the seniors which is held annually.
As usual, the event started off with the Principal giving his speech, followed by Iwata sensei, who is the chairman of the Yukitsubaki-kai.
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Iwata sensei, with his usual smile on his face.
It is a society set-up by a few retired ex-lecturers of the college, as well as several lecturers who are still teaching in the college at present. It was through this society that we get to visit to so many places throughout the year. Among the common ones are the visit to a nearby park during the spring, watch the fireworks festival in the summer, pear plucking trip come autumn and ski trip in the snowy months of winter.
By the way, this is not an attempt to promote Nagaoka Kosen.
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Ngoc Chuyen, who will pursue his degree at Tokyo University.
Back to this farewell party, the event followed up with each of the senior stepping forward to give their message to those who attended the party. One thing I learned from this session is how the content of your speech can reflect on yourself.
While most of the seniors were saying how there three years has been a wonderful and memorable period for them, and also how much they have gotten the chance to experience the culture and lifestyle of the Japanese, in which I find it too common already that made their speech sound identical to each other, there were a couple of them, who used that opportunity to thanks and extend their gratitude to the lecturers, tutors, Japanese friends, junior and the rest.
That to me, that gives a difference between a good and a meaningful speech.
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The seniors receiving the gifts from the dorm representative.
As a small souvenir from the student council of the dormitory, the seniors were each given a gift, wrapped in blue cloth. It turned to be a traditional Japanese tea set. Party is all about food, and that was the next thing on agenda. Fresh sashimi, different kinds of boiled and fried seafood, including octopus and tiger prawns, sushi, fruits, cakes, fruit jelly, tapioca crackers and sandwiches.
Here is what I meant.
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Appetizing food.
In between that, there were also a slide presentation which was made by one of us, which depicted a brief introduction of each of the seniors, a short video them and their messages, and a short message by the Japanese Language lecturer for the international students, Matsuda sensei to the seniors.
Later afterwards, it was free for all to chat around and take the last few pictures together.
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Roby (Indonesia) with the Principal.
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Ikbar (centre) with his two tutors.
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Roby (third from left) and Zamih (forth from left) with their Japanese mates.
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Zulhelmi (centre) with a couple of his tutors.
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From left: Roby, Joann, Ikbar and Ngoc Chuyen (Vietnam).

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Ignore the blur guy's facial expression.

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The 5th Year seniors.
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And finally, a group picture together.
In one year's time, it's gonna be my turn. Time flies.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Farewell Party 2009

Short note: Furuza: dah tgk cite constantine? best lk cite ni
Calvin: nope. kat maner? dah tengok citer ni? pasal kucing yg malas nak diet. best giler.
Furuza: mintak dari kawan yg download movie ni. cite aper tu? melayu?
Calvin: macam macam bahasa ader. asalnyer jipang.
Furuza: tajuk?
Calvin: doraemon. doraemon and friends.
Furuza: hahhahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. lawakkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!

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Oh hi, I'm the mascot of the day =)
The international students in Nagaoka College of Technology can consider ourselves lucky because there isn't lack of events organised for us throughout the year. When we just came to the college during our 3rd Year, there were a few welcoming parties for us. Similar events will be held at the end of the year, this time to bid farewell to the fifth graders who will be graduating. It wasn't my turn this time; mine will come in one year's time.
Roughly a couple of weeks ago, there was this annual mochi-pounding-cum-farewell-party for the seniors in the 5th Year, which was held at the Suyoshi Community Center, just a few stones' throw away from our college. It started off with each of us taking turns to pound the hot steamed glutinous rice into mochi. I have made a rather detailed description of mochi in this entry last year, in which I do not see the need for me to make it redundant this time. Most of us looked reluctant to go out and help out on the mochi pounding; everybody was practically pointing fingers to each other.
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Transfering the steamed glutinous rice into the wooden mortar.
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Roby, our Indonesian senior helping out on the mochi pounding.

In the end, it was one of the retired lecturers who formerly taught in our college, Yamaguchi sensei who stepped out and started the pounding. I guess he must have been waiting to get the chance all day, because once he got a grip on the wooden mallet, he swung it so high that it hit the green emergency sign box hanging from the ceiling. Lucky thing that sign box didn't drop down.
After that, each of us took turns to pound the steamed glutinous rice.
It certainly required patience and an equally amount of energy because we needed to pound the rice until they turned into sticky mochi. There were two rounds this time and to save time, a machine was used to make the process faster. This machine will vibrate continuously in a circular motion and somehow, the vibration turned the steamed rice almost into mochi, in which the rest of the process will be continued using the mortar and wooden mallet.

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Making full-use of technology.

While waiting for the mochi to be done, the rest took pictures with each other.

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The seniors posing with their Japanese mates.
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The girls took turns baby-sitting the mascot of the day.

Just like the previous year, a group of musicians was invited to perform a few Japanese traditional dances during this event. Tada-san, who has been working in the office of our dormitory for some time already, was among the group members who performed on that day. All but one of the group members are retirees and according to one of the group member, they practice around three times every week.

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Introduction of each group members.
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Performing a dance with interesting hats.
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More like farmers dancing around in colourful suits.
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This uncle was reciting a poem while holding a huge saw.
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Another dance which used the same hat as the previous dance.

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He was in a real mood to sing on that day.
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Tada-san was giving her best too.

The singing was actually funny, and most of us were trying hard not to laugh because we were sure that was gonna offend them. Imagine your old ah poh singing and you should get the idea how that would sound like. But they took the effort to perform something for us, and I guess it would be disrespectful to just ignore and make fun of their performances.
On another hand, I honestly find that the performances weren't that bad and boring.

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Fifth Year seniors with the musician group members.
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Everyone wanna have a group shot too.

Then the main event of the day followed up.

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The ladies and girls helped out on preparing the mocha into small pieces and the guys distributed them on the tables.
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All were waiting to attack the food on the table.
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Mochi with three kinds of topping (red bean, walnut, and groundnuts), soup and oranges.

Yamaguchi sensei gave a short speech and as usual, some advices to the leaving seniors. He also detailed about his trips to Malaysia some time ago while showing us a few of the pictures taken there. He shared a personal experience of his, on how he was telling his Japanese friends about his trip to Malaysia, and his friends asked him in return whether they were any roads in Malaysian back then. He showed them the pictures as prove and his friends were quite shocked when they saw the skyscrapers and high-rise building in Kuala Lumpur.

That was nearly twenty years ago.
Sadly, this hasn't changed until today because there are still Japanese who will ask us whether it snows in Malaysia, or whether we get to feel earthquakes on regular basis. I still consider that alright, because those Japanese most probably failed their Geography. But not when they ask us if we still live on trees.

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Guess where this picture was taken. No prize for correct guess though.

The seniors this year get something special because the group photo taken earlier was printed out and framed, and it was wrapped as a simple gift from the Japanese juniors.

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Zamih, receiving his gift from the representative of the Chikyu Lab.
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The 5th Year seniors posing with their gifts.

Tada-san got hers as well.

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And as usual, it was casual picture-taking session with the leaving seniors.

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Clockwise from left: Yan Kuang, me, Roby (Indonesia), Idris, Ikbar, Dat (Vietnam), Yamamoto and Ngoc Chuyen (Vietnam).
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Tada-san with the seniors.

While we were tidying up the place after the event ended, I had a three-cornered race with my Indonesian senior, Roby and my Vietnamese junior, Dat to see who would finish folding the map first. There is only one simple rule, that is the mat has to be folded neatly and not loose. The prize for the winner?
No prize actually lol.

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I was leading at first.

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But Dat cheated; he stood up and just kicked the map instead of rolling it nicely and won the race =.=

Finally, a group shot of the international students, with the Japanese lecturers and students.

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Farewell Party 2009 at Suyoshi Community Center - February 11, 2009.

This is just the first of the many farewell parties. So, stay tuned.

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.