University of Calgary

Hokkaido exchange

May 31, 2011

Cultural exchange

By Clayton MacGillivray

Martin Sadlon and Allyson Hallworth enjoy the view of downtown Sapporo. Photo courtesy of Martin SadlonMartin Sadlon and Allyson Hallworth enjoy the view of downtown Sapporo. Photo courtesy of Martin SadlonFour education students are currently immersing themselves in the culture and language of Japan.

As part of the Teaching Across Borders Hokkaido Exchange Program, Jonathan Wolfe Allyson Hallworth, Sylvia Jensen and Martin Sadlon are spending four weeks improving their language skills as guests of the Hokkaido University of Education (HUE).

The purpose of this annual exchange is to promote scholarly activities and multicultural understanding through the exchange of information, faculty and students, and the encouragement of educational research activities.

Martin Sadlon believes the exchange benefits all involved. “The benefit for the students is a wider understanding of global education practices and the various social contexts of education. Experiencing new and different cultures is always helpful to better understand our own practices and our own motivations. For the institutions, it means staying relevant and connected to current issues and challenges to education.”

But is this trip really just a holiday in disguise?

One look at the full schedule prepared by the HUE faculty and the answer to this question is a resounding no. While students will have the opportunity to experience Japanese culture through activities such as a visit to the historical village of Hokkaido, participation in a Japanese tea ceremony and a trip to the Ainu Culture Promotion Center, they are also expected to put their teaching skills to work.

Jonathan Wolfe, Martin Sadlon, Sylvia Jensen and Allyson Hallworth participate in a Japanese tea ceremony. Photo courtesy of Martin SadlonJonathan Wolfe, Martin Sadlon, Sylvia Jensen and Allyson Hallworth participate in a Japanese tea ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Martin Sadlon
To fulfill the requirements of the program, participants are making presentations to elementary and junior high students. These presentations will run from 15 to 30 minutes and are expected to cover areas such as Canadian culture, geography, sports and popular culture.

“The language barrier and the culture barrier of asking questions are probably the two biggest challenges, says Sadlon. But, “the children to whom we have presented are extremely welcoming and they enjoy participating in our activities.”

Though speaking to a group of students in a second language may seem daunting, an even more worrisome issue was the possibility of the program being cancelled as a result of the recent Sendai earthquake. Understanding that the safety of the students was the first priority, program organizers in Calgary and Sapporo closely monitored radiation conditions and consulted the Government of Canada travel advisory. Only when it was clear that there was no danger to the students was the green light given.

Since arriving in Japan, Sadlon and his fellow students have been blogging about the exchange. Follow their experiences at hokkaido-exchange-2011.blogspot.com or check out more photos of their trip at educ.ucalgary.ca/node/557.


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