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Global Conversations Report|英語英文学科|Thomas FAST准教授






In a year with no study abroad, one of the international communication highlights for Notre Dame Seishin University in 2021 was the “Global Conversations” organized by DePaul University, the largest Catholic institution in the US.

Held between October 11-21st, there were 478 participants from 37 countries, including five from NDSU, which was the only university participating from Japan. Below you can see the breakdown of participation by country.

The conversations were facilitated by professors from around the world, including one by myself (see below), and covered a variety of topics. These were NOT lectures. Students were expected to engage with each other on various topics, from tourism to COVID-19 to religion. Overall, the students felt very positive about the conversations. Those who responded to the survey provided the following feedback:

The five students from NDSU: 2 first years, 1 second, 1 third and 1 graduate student, were all from the English Department. They participated in two different Global Conversations:

Three participated in Develop Intercultural and Intrareligious Understanding through Story Circles facilitated by myself, along with a German professor based in Brazil and an Egyptian professor based in the USA at DePaul University. Students in our conversation group met twice online and using a UNESCO-approved process for intercultural understanding called, “story circles,” they shared their experiences with other cultures, food and religions in an effort to develop close cross-cultural connections. Two other Seishin students joined the group, Short and long term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hospitality and Tourism Industry Careers and Education facilitated by faculty from another university.

All five of the NDSU students reported having a good or great experience overall. One had this to say:

I enjoyed sharing cultural stories. I was a little bit afraid of abusing cultural values with no intention. Overall, the experience told me the importance of trying to be as neutral as possible. When we talked about "Cultural appreciation and appropriation" my brain exploded. There were a lot of things to think about. In addition to that, since there were people from several cultural backgrounds, I was surprised how people see Japan from their points of view.

Here is what they had to say about discussing difficult topics in English:

Though I was considering that my English was not good enough to catch all different English accents, participants explained when I asked questions and we could have a smooth conversation.

I could know about different lifestyles during the COVID-19 situation in each country. Some speakers explained the current situation, and I knew that some countries including the US and Japan restrict tourists such as setting quarantines and others don't restrict tourists so strictly. Through this session, I learnt each country has a different strategy to live with COVID-19.

Overall, my English level wasn't good compared to other students because I couldn't tell my opinion in detail. I managed to make myself understood in English, but not to the point of exchanging opinions and deepening opinions. So I'd like to learn more English vocabulary, including about social problems in order to exchange my opinion with others smoothly in the future. I learned that by participating in the Global Conversation

While the English was not easy, all NDSU students reported that they were able to participate successfully. When asked, "What did you learn from your Global Conversation?," two students commented: In terms of "Global Competence" I found that communication is one of the most important skills.

I learned about the deep parts of different cultures. I can search the cultures and countries on the internet but I can’t know real life from it.

When asked, "What did you learn about yourself in the process?," they said:

I thought I need to THINK before I actually say. In order not to abuse cultural values and beliefs. Also, I learned that I shouldn’t be afraid of talking and explaining my opinions, because overseas students were active and they tried to understand my English.

I realized it is difficult for me to listen to Spanish English [accents] because I don’t have any opportunities to talk to Spanish [speakers] in English, so I want to listen to many kinds of English in my daily life in order to talk with international people.

I used to think the COVID-19 problem was hard to describe and thought I couldn’t communicate with so many people in English. But by learning a lot of situations from foreigners and listening to others’ opinions carefully, I could decrease my concerns little by little. Now I am able to explain my ideas (with a little help from teachers) and that sharing ideas is so interesting and leads to so many learning opportunities.

Lastly, all said they would recommend Global Conversations to other students in the future:

The conversations were different from Japanese classes, so I was inspired by them. It was fun!

I’m going to write about sustainable tourism for my thesis, and I think I’ll write about information I could learn about in this session.

Global conversation gave me a lot of opportunities to talk with other people from other countries and I could recognize how important it is to try to participate in foreign conversation sessions bravely.

As you can see from above the students found the Global Conversations challenging but also valuable for learning more about the world and about themselves. Just yesterday, one of the students told me that she made friends with a Brazilian student in her conversation group and they exchanged messages on Instagram almost every day during the Winter Break. So it looks like the Global Conversations achieved their goal of bringing students from around the world together to forge intercultural relationships!

The next round of Global Conversations will take place in late April. NDSU will submit a proposal to lead another discussion, so if you are interested, look for upcoming messages this spring on how to participate. All students are welcome!

Tom Fast
Department of English Language and Literature

Thomas FAST准教授(教員紹介)