Interview about Community Outreach Activities: Walker HEARD, George Washington University, U.S.A.

Walker HEARD, George Washington University, The United States, is participating
in our Community Outreach Activities during Fall Semester 2023. We would like to introduce his experience at AIU.

This article was written by Keito Nakagawa, student staff member, who has been supporting university community outreach activities. 

In the midst of a vibrant culture and tradition, Walker embarked on a journey to immerse himself in the culture and engage with the local community.

From bustling rice paddies to the creative students at the art university, his experiences vividly depict the transformative power of cultural exchange activities.

Discovering a New World

His encounter with Community Outreach Activities was somewhat fortuitous. While recuperating from an illness during orientation week, he chanced upon flyers that sparked his curiosity about local traditions and community life.

The Division of Community Outreach offers all students at AIU unique experiential opportunities not available elsewhere, with various students participating.

This experience with community outreach marked the beginning of a rich journey where he gained insights into the complexities of Japanese culture and made significant contributions to the local community.

Rice Harvest in Kobiradai, Akita City

Hands-On Experience

Walker’s participation in cultural exchange activities was diverse and engaging.

He experienced rice harvesting, celebrated the harvest at a local festival, and even made and ate mochi from the rice he harvested. Such practical experiences deepened his understanding of Japanese agricultural life and allowed him to immerse himself more into Japanese culture, something he couldn’t experience while in the big cities in Japan.

Another highlight was visiting the Akita University of Art and learning traditional lacquerware techniques, a unique aspect of Japanese art. Interacting with people from backgrounds different from those of the students at AIU, he gained a deeper understanding of Japan.

Lacquerware Decoration Workshop in Akita University of Art, Akita City
Walker’s Lacquerware Decoration Work

Reflections on Cultural Interactions

The most impactful part of his experience was interacting with local students from elementary to university level.

He found joy and comfort in communicating with younger students.

These students actively used English to communicate and were always excited about the rare opportunity to meet international students.

His encounters with these Japanese children, who come from completely different backgrounds, were not just about language exchange, but understanding the nuances of Japanese culture, especially youth culture.

Interacting with elementary school students at the AIU campus

Unwavering Expectations and the Joy of Cultural Connection

Interestingly, Walker’s initial expectations about these exchange activities were already high and remained unchanged after participation. Community Outreach activities allowed him to experience aspects of Japanese culture that would have been inaccessible otherwise and he enjoyed interacting with local elementary school children.

Since he is the oldest of four children, interacting with younger children wasn’t particularly challenging, but he admired their efforts to speak English and prepare for the interactions. However, as an international student, he expressed a wish to see more people participate in the activities.

Interview at the AIU campus

Walker’s experiences at AIU highlight the essence of cultural exchange: mutual understanding and sharing of experiences that enrich both the visitor and the host community.

His story is a testament to the value of stepping out of one’s comfort zone and embracing the unknown.

Postscrtipt: Reflection on the Interview

As a student staff member supporting Community Outreach activities, it was fascinating to hear the perspectives of students who participated in the activities we were hosting. I am also motivated to continue working hard to get even more students involved in the future!

 A big thank you to Walker and to all the students who have participated in the activities so far!

If you want to broaden your horizons beyond AIU’s campus, the Community Outreach activities are some of the most fun, valuable, and rewarding things you can do! 

I highly recommend that students take advantage of this opportunity while they have it!

To get to know more about Community Outreach, click here.

A Graduate Student
Global Communication Practices,
Graduate School of Global Communication and Language,
Akita International University