Getting students involved in international exchange: Global Engagement Center Support Team and International Societies at Nagoya University

Finding your place in a new environment can be one of the most difficult parts of being an international student. A long way from home, surrounded by a new language and culture, all the connections you had suddenly seem very distant, and it can be easy to feel isolated. To help international students find their sense of belonging, staff at the Global Engagement Center and students from the various international student societies at Nagoya University offer opportunities to make friends and try new things throughout the year. 


The Global Engagement Center Support Team organizes events to help international students and Japanese students get involved in cultural exchange and mutual support. In the first week of this academic year, they held the International Organizations Joint Event, which gave students from throughout the university the opportunity to hear presentations from the various student-led international groups active at Nagoya University. These include student societies such as Nagoya University Foreign Student Association (NUFSA) and Co-Op Foreign Student Association (COFSA), regular social events such as Coffee Hour and Presentation Hour, and Gateway to Overseas Studies, a group that offers support such as English conversation practice to Japanese Nagoya University students looking to study abroad. 



At the International Organizations Event, I spoke to some students attending to find out what participation in international exchange means to them. Emily, third year at the School of Agricultural Sciences, helped organise the event and led several presentations. She is Japanese, but moved between the US, Japan and the UK as a child before returning to Japan to study at Nagoya University. She is enrolled in the G30 International Program, Nagoya University's all-English language undergraduate and graduate degree program. Its students come from all over the world to study in Japan.  


"It's an opportunity to make connections and friends, and to learn something new," she said of her time in COFSA, Coffee Hour, and the Nagoya University Model United Nations (NUMUN). "I've been able to acquire communication and event leadership skills here that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to otherwise." 



First year students Nanako, Ayaka and Nagisa only attended their entrance ceremonies a few days earlier but are already interested in getting involved in international exchange. "When you come to a big university like this, you suddenly have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world in a way that was impossible from elementary through high school," Nanako told me. "I think it's too good a chance to miss." 


Being a university student provides unique opportunities to meet people from around the world that are rarely available to us at any other stage of our lives. Staff and students at Nagoya University work hard to ensure that both international and Japanese students have as many opportunities as possible to enjoy cultural exchange, learn new things, and, ultimately, to form friendships and make memories that can last a lifetime. 



Article and photos by Edmund Rhind-Tutt, Nagoya University International Communications Office