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A retrospective study of the impact of an international exchange program: an evaluation of changing attitudes toward internationalisation and global awareness Nakai, Makiko

Abstract

I explored the impact of the UBC-Ritsumeikan Academic Exchange Program in which 100 Japanese university students attend a Canadian university for 8 months. It is a sheltered immersion program during which the students come to Vancouver to study and live in an integrated academic and sheltered social environment. The research questions addressed in this study were: 1) How do the students think they learned English and what do they do to maintain it in Japan? 2) What do the students think they learned and became during the sojourn? 3) How do the students think these changes have affected their lives in Japan after the sojourn? 4) What do the students think about the program and how do the students think the program can be improved? Primary data sources included my autobiography about my international Ritsumeikan exchange experiences as well as extensive interviews of students. My findings were that the students believed they had become more international, independent, flexible, open-minded, and multicultural. The students learned Canadian culture as well as English, the relativity of culture, and humanity. The interviews found that what students learn in this exchange program is so profound that the study can encourage more people to participate in such programs. Travelling abroad to live and study itself is very stressful. Only one academic year is too short for the students to become acculturated to the new environment. The students have to return to their home countries just as they are getting used to their new environment. By identifying what kinds of stress the students encounter, the programs can be improved to help reduce it, the study can help students learn better and make the most of the programs as well. I also scrutinised how educators can facilitate such programs in the traditional classrooms using the example of a new university called Asia Pacific University (APU). Furthermore, by exploring how the students deal with the re-entry process in Japan, we can understand the students' newly constructed identity and international perspectives which are important in this shrinking global village.

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