UWC ISAK Japan collaborates closely with several local Japanese schools in Karuizawa and nearby regions to nurture cultural exchanges. In the 2023 Fall Project Week, our students embarked on a two-day cultural exchange at Miyota Junior High School. The students from UWC ISAK Japan were invited to discuss Human Rights and to showcase their CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) projects. These sessions provided new insights for the local and UWC ISAK students alike.
Different Approaches to Human Rights Education
Forty-two of our Grade 11 students presented on various Human Rights issues to around 400 students at Miyota Junior High. Feedback from the Miyota students highlighted the value of these discussions, with many admitting they had not previously considered the subject of Human Rights. This was a surprise to some UWC ISAK students since Human Rights are a central theme in the school’s mission towards promoting peace and a sustainable future. Human Rights topics are a regular part of our dialogue at UWC ISAK, contrasting with the limited exposure these issues receive in local schools like Miyota.
Fostering Connections with Our Local Community in Japan
The visits took place on October 10 and 11, 2023. Arriving in small groups of eight, they began with ice-breaking board games, some provided by Miyota students and others by our students. The introduction session was made even more special for our students thanks to the welcoming ceremony, complete with a choir performance from the junior high schoolers. Lunchtime offered another opportunity for cultural exchange — local students donned aprons to serve bento boxes in classrooms, leading everyone to say “Itadakimasu” together before eating, reflecting a deep respect and gratitude towards the meal, which is quite a shift from our more informal buffets at Cezars Kitchen!
The first day’s Human Rights presentations encountered some unforeseen challenges. “The language barrier made effective communication tough, and our students felt somewhat misunderstood,” reported Mr. Hinton, our CAS Coordinator. Adapting swiftly, we modified our approach for the CAS project presentations the following day, including at least one Japanese-speaking student in each group to aid interpretation. This adjustment led to a smoother experience and meaningful feedback, which was invaluable for our students. The deep engagement and newfound friendships were a highlight for everyone involved.
Why we Believe in Connection to our Local Community
These two days brought invaluable lessons to students from both Miyota Junior High School and UWC ISAK Japan. Initially, our students aimed to educate their Miyota counterparts about Human Rights, primarily in English. However, our students gained equally meaningful insights, particularly admiring the discipline and the exceptionally warm welcome arranged by Miyota Junior High. This exchange not only enriched our students’ understanding but also strengthened bonds with our local community.
Connection to Japan and our community is in our DNA. Learn more about Japanese Culture in the UWC ISAK Japan experience on our website.