The efforts of Yokohama National Univ. to support international students during a pandemic

Chinese and Japanese students chat in the activity space of YNU105, a student group that supports international students at Yokohama National University, Yokohama, on December 13, 2021. The name of the group is derived from the initials of the name of the university and room number of the class where the group started its activities. (Mainichi / Richi Tanaka)

YOKOHAMA – Many foreigners wishing to study in Japan were unable to come to the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although restrictions on entry into the country were relaxed as the number of infected people declined, stricter measures were reinstated after the emergence of the omicron variant.

But what about the students who continue their studies in the country? A university in Yokohama is doing its part to help these students study and find employment, while also giving them the opportunity to converse online with Japanese students. The Mainichi Shimbun has taken a close look at these efforts.

In mid-December, eight Japanese and Chinese students were chatting and laughing through acrylic panels, installed to prevent infection, at a table on the second floor of the International Student Center at Yokohama National University. This is the activity space of YNU105, a group of around 30 students who support international students. In addition to helping students with class homework and job search materials, it is also a place of intercultural exchange.

Zhu Jianyang, 26, who studies education at the university’s top school, said, “Because there are more online classes, there is less communication. I am happy to have the opportunity to speak Japanese here.

Quan Ming, 31, who is majoring in economics at the graduate school, commented, “It is interesting to experience the cultural differences between Japan and China during our exchanges. I would also like to use this experience in my research.

Before the pandemic, the YNU105 space was open every weekday, but it is now only open three days a week. While the group’s activities have been restricted to prevent infections, it has also launched online social events. One of them is an individual exchange project for students who share the same interests and the same languages ​​that they wish to learn.

Group leader Yosei Goda, 20, a sophomore at the College of Engineering Sciences, spoke with a Chinese student who wants to pursue higher education but has remained in his home country due to the pandemic.

They teach each other about the cultures and languages ​​of their countries and discuss their hobbies, but the most common thing Goda hears from Chinese students is that they are worried that they will not be able to enter Japan. .

Goda said: “The student seemed frustrated that he couldn’t come to Japan. I hope we can meet soon.”

International students enrolled at Yokohama National University typically make up around 10% of all students. In recent years, many students from China, South Korea and other Asian countries have come to the university to pursue higher education.

The university offers a “tutoring system” for foreign students in which Japanese students help newly enrolled international students complete the necessary local and national administrative documents and study. In cooperation with the Kanagawa Prefecture Government and Yokohama Municipal Government, they encouraged foreign students to find employment in the prefecture’s companies through internships, Japanese language courses and vocational training programs.

These efforts have earned the university a good reputation, and for five consecutive years the institution has received the top prize in the national university category of the “Nihon Ryugaku Awards” (the national university category of eastern Japan in 2017 , 2018 and 2019). The award is given to schools that faculty members from Japanese language schools would recommend to international students.

However, the entry restrictions that have been in place since last year have had a significant impact. As of May 2021, the university had 836 international students, up from around 1,000 in previous years. Of these, 167 were unable to enter Japan, and some of the master’s degree graduate students who enrolled in April 2020 may graduate without ever having studied on campus.

Some schools at the university have introduced online courses and online entrance exams, but in some countries and regions internet connections are unstable. Yokohama National University Vice President Hiromi Kabashima said, “There are things that can be learned by being on campus and talking to students and faculty. Learning the way international students approach problems and listening to their real-life experiences is also beneficial for Japanese students. When it comes to securing learning opportunities, nationality does not matter. ”

Regarding the restrictions on foreign students entering Japan, Kabashima said, “It would be nice if they could enter Japan provided they are vaccinated or have tested negative for the coronavirus via a PCR test. ”

(Japanese original by Richi Tanaka, Tokyo City Public Information Department)

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