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Distance Learning

Students connect virtually with peers in Japan

Even the pandemic cannot stop students from exploring the globe. Now, they’re doing so without leaving home.

To that end, Bridgewater State University students participated in course-based virtual exchanges with peers from other nations.

“You’re traveling, but you’re not really traveling,” said Christian Cabral, ’22, an aspiring physical education teacher who is collaborating with Japanese students. “It’s nice to see faces and hear everyone’s voices.” 

BSU received a grant from the American Council on Education to support the initiative, which connected students taking physical education classes with Dr. Karen Richardson at BSU and Dr. Naoki Suzuki at Tokyo Gakugei University in Japan.

Japanese and American students worked in groups to compare each other’s physical education systems. Swimming, for instance, the Bridgewater students learned, is a staple of Japanese physical education, unlike in the U.S.

“Through the cross-cultural exchange, students from Japan and the U.S. are collaborating and working together as global citizens in the field of physical education,” Suzuki said.

Students hope to incorporate aspects of each other’s educational systems in their future classrooms.  

“It’s not necessary to make it the same,” said Yuka Saito, a Tokyo Gakugei sophomore studying to be a physical education teacher. “I think good points should be shared with each other.”

A separate exchange connected a political science class taught by Dr. Inkyoung Kim of BSU and an international relations course taught by Dr. Sung Ho Park of Yonsei University in South Korea. Those students researched and debated systems of government and elections.

Global education is even more important during COVID-19 when students feel isolated, said Richardson, a professor in the Department of Movement Arts, Health Promotion and Leisure Studies.

“They were able to have these connections and really feel their world is opening up in new ways,” she said. “We’re thrilled to have this collaboration.”

The pandemic allowed students to bond over the shared challenges they faced.

“It’s been really helpful to see other people dealing with a similar situation,” said Mark Bentley, a post-baccalaureate student working toward his teaching licensure. “It’s nice to have a common thing we can all relate to.”

Japanese and American students appreciated the chance to broaden their horizons in a time when studying abroad is not possible.

“In this pandemic, we can’t do such things, but through this program we can connect with other students from foreign countries,” said Shiori Yamaguchi, a Tokyo Gakugei junior studying to become an English teacher. “I think it’s very important.”

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