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34 Students sent to Vietnam for the Fifth START Program

From February 29, 2012 until March 13, for a period of two weeks, 34 undergraduate first-year students took part in the 5th START Program *. Led by Professor Takao Yao (Graduate School of Letters), Assistant Professor Tooru Hiyama (Health Service Center) and 2 other faculty members, the students visited the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City (USSH) – and its surroundings in Ho Chi Minh City.

Aside from the lectures students attended at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities held in English by local teachers on Ho Chi Minh City’s history, culture and economy and international issues and introductory lessons on Vietnamese, they also had exchange and discussion with Vietnamese students. In addition to the lessons, participants were guided by local Vietnamese students to a museum on history and war and the former South Vietnam presidential palace, went to an industrial complex and talked with people working at Japanese enterprises, had the opportunity to view facilities outside campus, and had contact with local residents by making a home visit and going to a nursing home for children with special needs. They also experienced Vietnam’s nature and history by seeing the Mekong River and the Cu Chi Tunnel located on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, and had exchange with members of the Tonichi Club, who study Japan. These activities became an opportunity for self-reflection as the participants were impressed by the Vietnamese students’ enthusiasm for learning and fluent Japanese, and became aware of different views on war and peace due to different historical backgrounds and other social circumstances.

At first, the students were surprised by the overwhelming number of motorbikes, but after two weeks they gradually toughened up from exposure to different values than in Japan, and got used to the new environment. When it came time for them to return home, they were filled with a desire to face new challenges in their student lives. There were students who were able to decide on a dream for the future or set their hearts on studying abroad, and they expressed their gratitude for being provided such a valuable experience.

* The START Program provides first year students who have little overseas experience the opportunity to attend lectures and see everyday life at a foreign partner university in order to raise interest in international/cross-cultural activities and studying abroad. It was established in2010 and has already been held four times. The Hiroshima University Fund financially supports part of the research expenses to lessen the students’ economic burden and to give to a broader population of students the opportunity of studying abroad. The participants went to study abroad after a 2-month training period before departure. Back in Japan, they had a follow-up session.
* In 2012, the START program will be held for 4 times: In Indonesia and Taiwan during the summer and in America and Vietnam during the spring. 96 students are planned to be dispatched.
* “START” stands for “Study Tour Abroad for Realization and Transformation”. We hope that this program will help the participants understand themselves and realize their dreams (“Realization”) and be a starting point for personal growth and “Transformation”.

Discussion with Vietnamese students

The students of the Tonichi Club teaching palm leaf crafting

A memorial picture taken at the farewell party

A final message card exchange


International Exchange Group,

Education and International Office,

Hiroshima University

E-mail: kokusai-ryugaku(AT)office.hiroshima-u.ac.jp

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