Student experience: Studying online with a Japanese university

“…learning Japanese has increased my ability to network, boosted my confidence, and improved my communication and negotiation skills.”

Kent law student Bea Manlapaz is enjoying renewed confidence and new language skills after her experience of studying online with a Japanese university.

Bea is studying a four-year International Legal Studies (ILS) programme at Kent Law School and was due to be spending this academic year studying at Kobe University in Japan. In the wake of the global pandemic, plans had to be adapted. Kent arranged for Bea to defer her year abroad and suggested she take up an opportunity to complete an Asian Studies Programme with Kansai Gaidai University in Japan in the meantime.

Both Kobe and Kansai Gaidai (in Osaka) are partner institutions of Kent but Kansai Gaidai isn’t usually an option for law students. However, Kansai Gaidai’s offer for Kent students to take up to two classes online last term was extended to all – for a nominal fee of US$100, students were invited to study a course in Japanese language plus one choice from 20 courses, taught in English, relating to Asian cultures. The extra-curricular courses ran from the end of August to 18 December, with synchronous lessons taking place from 06.00 – 07.30 (GMT).

In addition, students were expected to take part in one session a week which involved engaging with local Japanese students either through games, speaker programmes or country/cultural introductions.  ​

Students from Kent were graded and received Employability Points plus recognition on their university Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).  ​

The offer to study online has been extended by Kansai Gaida again this term and Bea is one of eight Law School students who are taking up the offer. Read more about Bea’s experience last term in her account (below).

Stage 2 ILS student Eleanor Railton also took advantage of the opportunity to learn Japanese with Kansai Gaidai. Eleanor is due to spend her year abroad studying in Canada next academic year. Reflecting on her experience of learning online with Kansai Gaida, she said: ‘I thought my tutor was so friendly, helpful and patient. Learning Japanese was really fun and the teaching was exceptional. Waking up at 6/7am was not a bunch of fun though! Although I’m not continuing with it this term, I would really love to revisit the language in the future. I would definitely recommend it to others as the experience has been valuable.’

Laura Charleton, the Law School’s Director of Undergraduate Studies and International, said: ‘There is a real appetite amongst KLS students for international study opportunities to further enrich their studies. Whilst physical mobility to study abroad is one option, the restrictions on travel necessitated by the global pandemic have demonstrated that technology-enabled virtual opportunities can be just as enriching.’

Other opportunities law students at Kent are taking up to study internationally online this year include:

  • A free, eight-week Global Community Challenge YYC with the University of Calgary International in Canada (working in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary teams to identify solutions to real world issues)
  • And a two-week summer school on Brazilian Studies at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) for two stage 1 and 2 students (applications close 2pm Friday 29 January – check student inboxes for details!)

As part of her four-year degree in International Legal Studies at Kent, Bea was excited to learn she’d successfully secured a place to study at Kobe University in Osaka, Japan for 2020-2021. But, her excitement turned to uncertainty as the global pandemic began to impact all plans to study overseas…

‘Like many others, I focused on increasing my employability during the summer vacation. I spent most of my summer vacation attending webinars, volunteering and training to be an adviser at Citizens Advice, and completing virtual vacation schemes.

‘In the Legal Cheek Virtual Vacation Scheme, I was particularly struck by John Watkins’ reimagination of ‘employability’ as ‘employagility’. He implored a re-examination of the traditional tools and desirable skills in employment especially in the context of COVID-19, and encouraged creativity and professional proactivity to evidence resilience, commitment, and the ability to adapt.

‘With a renewed sense of a ‘you can work around this’ attitude, I decided to defer my year abroad after the completion of my third year in Kent and take part in Kansai Gaidai University’s Asian Studies Program alongside my third year Kent studies. Responding to the changes in the delivery of education, Kansai Gaidai University (one of Kent’s partner institutions in Japan), piloted its first ever online Asian Studies Program in the Fall Semester 2020. It offered several courses delivered both synchronously and asynchronously, designed to encourage the continuation of international exchange between its local students and students from its partner schools.

‘Electing to do a language course, I committed to weekly Monday, Wednesday and Friday synchronous classes at 06:00 – 07:30 GMT for five months. Although delivered online, the Japanese 1 classes were intensive and very interactive. The class usually started with a quiz on vocabulary, writing, or translation followed by the lesson. We were easked to actively participate by translating in class, reading and writing in Hiragana/Katakana/Kanji on a shared screen, practicing conversation dialogues, and delivering presentations. To practice our conversation skills, our sensei (teacher) puts us into breakout rooms on Zoom with fellow international exchange students. Occasionally, local students joined the class for us to practice with a native speaker and gain a personal insight about life in Japan and its culture.

‘Aside from using my knowledge from the language course as preparation for my year abroad in Japan in 2021-2022, learning Japanese has increased my ability to network, boosted my confidence, and improved my communication and negotiation skills. By the culmination of Japanese 1, my months of hard work and early morning classes allowed me to achieve a 4.0 GPA, equivalent to an A. For this upcoming Spring 2021 Semester, I am planning to advance to Japanese 2 to increase my proficiency in the Japanese language.’

Bea Manlapaz

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