Students registered in the EDST 3900/CORE 3882 Engaging the World: Comparative Education Studies through Study Abroad course recently returned from an 8-day study abroad experience to Tokyo, Japan. The students represented various majors across campus including Educational Studies, Biology, Diplomacy and International Relations, Marketing/Finance, History, Psychology, Italian, and Physics. Leading up to the travel portion of the class, the students met regularly during the spring 2019 semester where they studied the topics they would explore firsthand while in Tokyo. Those topics were (a) comparative education studies, (b) Catholic Social Teaching, and (c) intercultural competence. The course is hosted by the College of Education and Human Services and co-taught by Dr. Bryan Meadows (Educational Studies) and Pfr. Dan Aronoff (Educational Studies). It also qualifies as a college-specific Core III course. This was the course's inaugural administration.
The purpose of the study abroad trip was to provide students with firsthand experience visiting K-12 schooling in Japan. The itinerary included a private elementary school, a public middle school, a public high school, and a private university. During the school visits, students were able to observe and participate in classroom instruction. They played at recess with the elementary school students; they did warm-up drills with the middle school's badminton team; they were given student-led tours of the high school; and attended a meet-and-greet event at the university. The school visits were organized by volunteer liaison colleagues in Japan. Among those colleagues, the generous work of Dr. Tatsuya Isono (Professor of English Linguistics, Seijo University) was central.
In addition to school visits, the study abroad students took part in cultural and historical excursions around the Tokyo metropolitan area. They took a morning bus tour of Tokyo, stopping at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, and the Asakusa neighborhood. They visited Hamarikyu Gardens, a Japanese garden park dating back to the 1700s. They took a river taxi up the Sumida River to visit Tokyo Sky Tree Tower, currently the tallest structure in the country. On Sunday, the group visited the Edo-Tokyo History Museum and the Akihabara Electric Town district. Some in the group also attended Catholic Mass, which was celebrated in Japanese. Outside of the school visits, a definite highlight for the students was the evening visit to Tokyo Disneyland.
Throughout the trip, the students were encouraged to identify relationships between the educational system in Japan and wider Japanese society. On a regular basis, students posted their observations in real-time on Twitter using the tag #shupan19. For their final course assignment, students wrote brief academic papers recounting what the study abroad experience had taught them about (a) comparative education studies, (b) Catholic Social Teaching, and (c) intercultural competence.
History major Matthew Cunha had this to say about the trip: "To be able to interact with students from another country was an unforgettable experience. I was able to get a whole new perspective on how Japanese society functioned as well as how different the education system was. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience." Nadia Meshkati, Psychology major and incoming graduate student, wrote the following reflection: "The opportunity of observing the classes in Japan was one that is very rare to obtain. I got a chance to witness how teachers taught and interacted with their students. As someone who was already knowledgeable on the Japanese culture prior to the trip, I still learned a great amount of new information every single day. The chance to immerse myself in the culture has helped me grow as an individual."
Reflecting on the study abroad trip, course co-instructor Pfr. Daniel Aronoff commented, "The students had an opportunity to interact with a wide range of Japanese students, faculty members and citizens which helped SHU students develop an understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture. This, in turn, helps foster a deeper understanding of other cultures and the importance of their roles in a global society." Dr. Tatsuya Isono, Seijo University faculty and volunteer liaison, conveyed what the school visits meant to his students: "The Seijo University students who attended the meet-and-greet or who saw SHU students in their classes could gain much information and enjoyed the intercultural communication. I'm sure our students learned a lot from this experience."
The EDST 3900/CORE 3882 course is to be offered each Spring semester to all Seton Hall undergraduate students. The course can be counted toward the University Core III: Engaging the World course requirement. Activities promoting the course will take place during the fall semester. In the meanwhile, all questions about the course and the study abroad trip can be directed to Dr. Bryan Meadows, EDST assistant professor at (973) 275-2539 by phone; firstname.lastname@example.org by email; and @Meadows_SLTE on Twitter.