AIU Voices

2019.04.15AIU Voices

Reflections on a Junior High School Visit: Marieke Gerrits, University of Leiden, Netherlands

Marieke Gerrits University of Leiden Akita International University school visit

Marieke meeting with junior high school students in Ugo

During my time at AIU, I have met so many wonderful people and have taken part in fascinating activities.

I appreciate the lengths at which the staff at RCOS go in order to encourage us to interact with the local community. One of those RCOS activities was a visit to a junior high school in Ugo, and it was an incredibly humbling experience, even though we only spent a couple of hours at the school.

Like most school-visiting activities, I got to tell these students about Dutch culture: how we have colorful money, tasty deep-fried snacks (asking them to pronounce ‘bitterballen’ is always fun), and that we have bikes literally everywhere. When it was their turn and they got to ask me some questions, these ranged from discussion-sparking ones like ‘what is your favorite sport’ to ‘do you like K-pop or J-pop?’ As a result, my answers were not always what they expected, and the conversations that followed were incredibly interesting.

After that, we played a game of tunnel ball and a category game, where my group had to think of as many fruit names in English as possible. It was impressive to see how excited the students were to try and think of as many as they could, helping each other along the way with things like spelling. I can imagine how daunting it can feel to have to communicate in a foreign language you’re not yet completely familiar with, but every one of them was trying their very best. This has motivated me in trying my best at studying Japanese as well, since I know for sure I wouldn’t be able to come up with all these fruits in Japanese.

Finally, as part of the closing ceremony, a group of elementary school children performed "Country Roads" that had been personalized to fit the countless amazing features of the community, such as local shrines and food. To top it off, the children were even singing in harmony, showing how much they had practiced before performing it during this visit.

This particular experience has been one of many amazing ones so far in Akita. Getting to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds and learning from each other is something I think everyone should experience.