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Embassies, educational groups get ‘stamp’ of approval from students

by Mami Maruko

Staff Writer

If you’re a Japanese student interested in studying at a foreign university, it might be best to start preparing early.

On July 26 and 27, the U.S., Australian and Canadian embassies in Tokyo -together with the British Council and L’Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo (Tokyo Nichifutsu Gakuin) and CampusFrance Japon educational organizations — jointly organized a stamp rally for 12- to 18-year-old students to provide them information about studying in those countries.

Kikue Kanao, information and education promotion officer at the Canadian Embassy, said that rather than competing with each other to lure the students to their own countries, all the embassies and institutions shared the mutual goal of encouraging more Japanese to study abroad.

Kanao is a member of the Foreign Government Education Representatives, a group comprised of embassy officials that get together once every few months to exchange information about promoting their country’s educational institutions. She said the group wanted to find a way to get junior- and high-school students interested in foreign countries in the first place.

“We talked about doing something together, and this (stamp rally) was what we came up with,” she said.

A total of about 500 students from schools in the Kanto region joined the two-day event to take part in seminars held at the embassies and institutions to promote educational opportunities in those countries.

The students were divided into four groups. Each group comprising about 60 students visited three out of five of the diplomatic and educational institutions. Those who collected three stamps from those venues could attend a reception at the Canadian Embassy at the end of the day.

The stamp rally was held for the second year in a row, with a one-day event held last year attracting about 300 participants.

Natsumi Ono, 16, a first-year student at Tokyo Metropolitan Kokusai High School in Meguro Ward, said the event piqued her interest in studying abroad.

Mayuko Iida, another 16-year-old from the same high school, said she simply enjoyed the experience of being able to venture inside the compounds of the foreign embassies because she has hopes to become a diplomat in the future.

After listening to the seminar at the Australian Embassy in Minato Ward, Iida said the Australian English accent was easier for her to understand than she had imagined, and that she now likes the country more.

At each venue, staff members of the embassy or institution gave briefings about the country and its education system, as well as about what student life is like in each country.

Quizzes about each country and its culture were also given to the students in the country’s native tongue.

During a one-hour session at the British Council, education projects managers Emma Parker and Tom Mayes gave a lecture about high-school life in the U.K.

A conversation skit using words and phrases that high school students use in everyday life such as “Sarnie” (for sandwich) and “dossing around” (spending time aimlessly) were introduced.

The students also took part in an English conversation lesson about Japanese cuisine given by a Canadian teacher.

At L’Institut Franco-Japonais de Tokyo, students tasted croissants after a presentation was given in French with Japanese translations.

“Basically, the idea is to give them a taste of France,” said Fabien Roudier, representative of CampusFrance Japon.

“It’s a way to entertain students, to promote and give them information about our activities. We just aim to inform students. If you’re a high school student and you don’t have any information, it will be difficult to decide whether you’re going to study abroad (or not) once you’re in university,” he added.

Ayako Yokota, a 17-year-old returnee from Singapore, said it was a great opportunity for her to find out about the education system of each country.

“I would like to study in either Australia or Canada,” she said. “It seems like the curriculum at universities there are flexible, and you can choose freely what you want to study.”

Naomi Kurasawa, another 17-year old and a returnee from France, agreed. She said she wanted to return to France to study at a university there, but after attending the rally, she said that her scope had widened.

“I found out that education systems in English-speaking countries are good, too, so I’ll take those countries into consideration, too,” she said.