Kizuna Across Cultures (KAC) conducts a Global Classmates exit survey to obtain feedback from students and teachers that are used to continuously make improvements in the following year’s program. In the survey, we measure impact on the program’s three pillars: cultural exchange, collaborative language learning, and fostering international friendship.
The 2017-18 Global Classmates program had 1,709 student participants from 62 high schools across Japan and the United States. Below are the program impact results based on data from the 2017-18 exit survey.
95% of Students Are Satisfied with the Program!
Participants Strengthened Their Understanding of Both Cultures and Desire to Learn More About Other Cultures.
94% of the students believe they know more about each other’s culture while 90% of the students believe they’ve learned how to better explain their countries and cultures. In addition, 88% of the students responded that participating in Global Classmates strengthened their desire to learn more about other cultures through study abroad.
Even the students who were not very interested in other countries initially began to enjoy finding out about other cultures. Through engaging with people their own age, they began to feel more connected to their partner country and culture. The students also increased their understanding and awareness of their own culture by sharing things about their daily lives and culture, and answering questions using photos.
In Omiyage Exchange, a small gift exchange with the partner school, students who have been engaging with each other online receive an Omiyage that their partner classmates carefully selected. This connects the students on a tangible level and this project becomes one of the most memorable moments for them.
・I was able to learn about American customs that are not common in Japan. I also learned about a wide variety of cultures and ways of thinking because the United States is a diverse country. （male, National Institute of Technology, Hakodate College）
・It was a great experience to share things I love and help my partner classmates learn about Japanese culture. （male, Himeji Shikisai High School）
・I was able to really feel the difference in our cultures through learning about American cultures, their unique characteristics and school life through comments and photos. （female, Kunori High School）
・I used to think that Japan and the US have a completely different way of thinking but it was exciting to see that in reality, there are many common grounds. （female, Murasakino High School）
・I have gained lots of curiosity. Global Classmates has given me a peek into Japanese culture and I am hungry for more. I have also gained the skill of appreciating and respecting cultures. It is important to be respectful of other cultures so that you are not ignorant and do not disrespect their customs and ways. (female, Center for Global Studies)
・It was fun and interesting to learn about a new culture also interacting with person from halfway across the planet. It was an enriching experience that broadened my horizon. It made me more eager to visit a foreign country and to study abroad in the future. (male, Creekview High School)
・I learned to better communicate with others without fear. I learned talking with strangers is not as scary as it may seem and that even those across an ocean are very similar to me. (male, International School of Beaverton)
・They became more accepting of and more interested in different perspectives. They also learned to enjoy these differences. (Taniguchi Sensei, Saga Agricultural High School)
・By getting a glimpse into American students’ school and home life, the students felt closer to and deepened their understanding of American culture. (Saito Sensei, Sapporo Keihoku Commercial High School)
・I think they now have a better awareness of what elements of culture cross borders, and which ones don’t. For example, they discovered that they share many common interests with the Japanese students in terms of TV shows, music, and Youtube personalities. On the other hand, things they are assumed are “universal” (like snack foods, etc.) turn out to not be known at all in Japan. (Cadena Sensei, James Madison High School)
Students Enhanced Skills and Confidence in Foreign Language and Cross-Cultural Communication
94 % of students have learned how to better get their point across and 91% of students believed they learned how to better apply rules of grammar and vocabulary. In addition, 91 % of students felt more motivated to communicate in Japanese/English and 90% of students responded that their desire to continue studying Japanese/English became stronger.
When it comes to foreign language education, it is believed that improvement comes from repetition and practice in reading and writing on familiar topics using the level of grammar and vocabulary one already possesses as opposed to emphasizing accuracy in reading and writing on a difficult topic.
In Global Classmates, students from both countries are in the same position of learning a foreign language. Students feel encouraged to post comments and/or send video messages by seeing their partner classmates actively post comments in Japanese/ English without fearing mistakes. They then receive an exciting response from their partner classmate, making them realize that they are capable of communicating their ideas. As this continues, they are able to express themselves with less hesitation. Comments are written in English and Japanese, which allows the students to see how native speakers express themselves, and slowly, the students’ own expressions in a foreign language become more polished.
As a matter of fact, 91% of the students responded that they learned how to better apply rules of grammar and vocabulary in a conversation, and 77% of the students felt more confident in communicating in Japanese/English.
In addition, 90% of the students felt that participating in the program increased their desire to continue studying Japanese/English. Through their desire to learn more about their partner classmates and have them learn more about themselves, the language that used to be just part of a required subject becomes a communication tool that they want to learn.
・Unlike a regular English class, participating in Global Classmates allowed me to practice expressing my own ideas and explaining things that are unique to Japan in an easily understandable manner. （male, Rakuhoku High School）
・I was able to convey my opinions, thoughts and visions with the language skill that I had. It made me want to continue studying English and be more confident in using it. （male, Ueda Nishi High School）
・What I enjoyed the most is reading other students’ comments and learning new ways to express an idea that are different from how I would’ve expressed it.（female, Hakuba High School）
・It was so exciting to find someone whom I shared the same hobby with and we had such a fun and great conversation about it. （female, Hakuba High School）
・It was a great experience because I had never had an opportunity to talk to Americans my age or write about myself. I am very happy to have learned not just English from the textbook but real-life English. （male, Toho Senior High School）
・I’ve come to not be afraid of speaking in a language I’m not so confident in. At first, I was very anxious whenever I posted a comment thinking that I might be judged because of my grammatical skills. However, over time, the program became more relaxing and friendly. Because of the program, I’ve started to want to speak in Japanese more often and recently, I challenged myself and had real-life conversations with Japanese people at the airport. (female, Stuyvesant High School)
・I felt that this was a fun way to see how well I’m doing at Japanese. I was excited to get responses from Japanese students to confirm I am communicating and saying something the correct way. I also enjoyed reading the Japanese class’s English posts because it reminded me that we are all in the same place (still learning). I had a fun time with Global Classmates! (female, Lockport Township High School)
・I picked up on how the Japanese students would comment over time, first using a polite form and then slowly changing into a more relaxed, plain form. Through this observation, I realized when to use the polite form and the plain form in real-life situations, which would prove useful in the future. (female, Stuyvesant High School)
・I feel more confident in my communication skills as a whole. Speaking to students my age that are from an entirely different part of the world boosted my confidence in talking to others’ whose culture and ideals may be drastically different from mine. (female, Lockport Township High School)
・Many students used to be unmotivated to write in English (due to their belief that they can’t write in English); however, they learned to not fear making mistakes and just try to convey their ideas. I believe their attitude towards reading and writing in English changed from something fearful to something fun. (Saito Sensei, Sapporo Keihoku Commercial High School)
・The students became more relaxed towards expressing their opinions and ideas. At the beginning of the program, writing one post took a lot of time and students rewrote it many times, but by the end of the program, they were able to write quickly. The Japanese they learn in the classroom changed to a communication tool. (Cooper Sensei, Groves High School)
Students Fostered International Friendships and Developed a Global Mind Set
91% of students increased their desire to visit Japan/America after participating in Global Classmates and 83% of students desired to meet their partner students.
At the beginning of the program, there is a considerable number of students who only have a stereotypical image of their partner county that is portrayed in the media. However, throughout the exchange, they see that their partner classmates have a wide variety of personalities and beliefs, while also observing that despite their differences in nationalities, they share many similarities and interests unique to their generation.
Through repetition of these experiences, the students are able to see others as individuals with their own unique traits, rather than summing them up as “someone from country X.” They find common ground, come to a mutual understanding, and foster friendships, with many students staying connected personally with one another through social media following completion of the program Feeling close and connected to their partner classmates leads to feeling connected to that country, which resulted in 91% of students feeling a stronger desire to visit the partner country after participating in the Global Classmates program.
In this age of the Internet and its abundance of information, it is crucial for people to be able to not be misled by political propaganda or stereotypes, and be able to connect as individuals. They must get to know one another with an open mind and open heart, building trust between them. What they experience through Global Classmates, connecting with classmates across the ocean, will be invaluable for the students who will be part of this globalized world.
・Before participating in this program, I used to think that I want to make American friends so that I can improve my English. After participating in a fun exchange, I am happy that my English improved but I am happier about the bond and friendship that I made with them. I realized the importance of this bond. I am so happy to have realized this and am happy with the experience. （male, Nichinan Shintoku High School）
・The United States used to be a very distant presence in my mind but as the exchange went on, it started to feel very close. Talking to American students made them feel close and it was a lot of fun. （female, Fukuoka Futaba High School）
・There aren’t a lot of opportunities to interact with American people my age so it was a valuable experience. I will treasure the gift I received through Omiyage Exchange. I want to continue the exchange in the future. （female, Sapporo Keihoku Commercial High School）
・I was able to share many things through photos and comments. I want to be able to interact with many people from other countries using these kinds of communication tools in the future. （female, Fukushima Minami High School）
・Global Classmates was my first opportunity to regularly interact with people who actually live in Japan and it was really interesting to learn about the life and thoughts of normal Japanese high school students. The topics were engaging and allowed for lots of discussion. Even though we never got to meet the students of our partner school in person, by the end of the program it felt like we have been friends for a long time. (female, Stuyvesant High School)
・I think I have gained the ability to connect with people I barely know, on a relatively close level. I am able to share experiences and bond with them. (female, Mills High School)
・Through Global Classmates, I was able to break out of my comfort zone and communicate with new people that I hope to have a lifelong bond with. I did not have to face them in person, so I was able to freely state my thoughts and interests to others without having to worry about what they thought of me. I felt safe in the Global Classmate’s (female, Lockport Township High School)
・Through discovering similarities and differences between the lives of American students and their own lives in Japan, the United States and the American people became familiar to them. (Usuda Sensei, National Institute of Technology, Hakodate College)
・Students especially in Japanese 3 never really had a chance to connect to the real Japanese students in Japan and they enjoyed knowing they now have “friends” in Japan. More than just Japanese cultures, they learned how real Japanese teenagers are like. (Shiga Sensei, Boonsboro High School)