This page builds on the discussion of connectivity and collaboration that runs throughout the RoadMap, this time focusing on initiatives that link Japanese and U.S. students to each other as individuals. The strategies listed here are invariably linked to one or another of the other strategies found in this Innovations section of the RoadMap. They are worth pulling out for special consideration, however, as they draw attention to the value of person-to-person connections for students.
As discussed elsewhere on the RoadMap, (New Disciplines, New Students) international learning not only asks students to engage with core concepts and knowledge, but also to develop their abilities to apply this knowledge, reflect on their positioning in the world, and interact, work, and find common interest with people of diverse national backgrounds. Such goals intersect directly with the interest of many students in starting to build international networks that will be meaningful in their professional lives after graduation.
In short, the personal international relationships that students develop through study abroad and other means are an important element in their learning and development. These relationships come in various forms: one-on-one connections; networks (links that emerge among these one-on-one connections, resulting in larger, informal sets of people who interact with each other); and groups (cohesive bands who engage in activities together as a group).
All of these forms provide students the practice and experiential learning needed to develop global competence. All have the potential to create bonds that will last over time. All pull students into personal ties that can increase their desire for and confidence in studying abroad. International programs benefit from including activities that will foster such relationships.
Once again, strategic partnerships create a matrix enabling such relationship-building activities to thrive. They do the following:
- Widen the community of which students feel they are a part
- Offer a model of international relationship-building that can inspire students
- Provide a stable, long-term context for continued communication among students over time
- Bring students from partner institutions together as part of normal program activities
There are many ways within this context for colleges and universities to be intentional in creating student relationships. Here is a sampling of the possibilities:
- Zemis and similar intensive learning groups. As Waseda University states, the zemi is a uniquely Japanese collaborative learning group. Students join a zemi in their third year, remaining with the same small group until they graduate. Each zemi focuses on a particular topic and is led by a particular professor. Zemi students meet for multi-hour sessions several times a semester and engage in on-going research collaboration. As discussed elsewhere, Waseda has created a bi-national zemi program, bringing its own students together with those from its strategic U.S. partners.
- Collaboration on course projects. As the SUNY Collaborative Online Learning program is demonstrating with Kansai University, students can also be connected in pairs or triads to collaborate on projects assigned in co-taught courses. This project is done online, but such faculty-directed pairing can be done on a direct face-to-face basis for any course in which Japanese and U.S. students are enrolled.
- Collaborative service projects and experiential learning. Working side by side can be a powerful method of relationship-building, as when Ritsumeikan University and DePaul University students joined together to conduct improvisational theater activities at a Chicago public school. See also the Fukushima University program described to the left on this page.
- Laboratory teams. These same possibilities arise when STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students work together in laboratories. The NanoJapan project provides an excellent example in which students learned that cutting-edge research requires cross-cultural competence.
- Language buddies. Language learning requires practice, particularly with native speakers. Pairing visiting students with local students for language practice is yet another form of relationship-building, as happens for University of California students at Osaka University. Language buddy programs can also be done at a distance, pairing students online.
- Online social networking. Programs can also tap into the familiarity that Japanese and U.S. students now have with various forms of social media, creating virtual communities. Through existing social media sites or university course management software, faculty can create formats in which students post videos, blog entries, and other forms of sharing experiences and reflections. The SUNY COIL Center provides examples and guidance on such methods.