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Postgraduate students go digital to link up with Tokyo and bring Japanese language and culture to DMU


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Despite global travel restrictions, students and staff at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have linked up with teachers and learners in Tokyo to experience Japanese language, culture and business - including joining a traditional tea-making ceremony.

TEA - ceremony

The tea-making ceremony was broadcast live from Tokyo

Postgraduate students on the MSc Intercultural Business Communication course hosted a two-day online event thanks to DMU Global and Intercultural Communications lecturer Sam Bamkin. The programme was opened up to colleagues across the university

Students learned basic Japanese greetings and vocabulary with teachers from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS).

They also learned the basics of Japanese writing, went on a tour of a Taisho-era building and observed a tea ceremony - an important part of Japanese culture. 

Lecturer Sam, based at the University of Tokyo and also a part-time lecturer at TUFS, said: “Communication is essential to the course but we have all felt quite isolated this past year.

“So we have changed the whole model for studying business at DMU by using digital communication and drawing on the contacts I have in Tokyo.

“The Tea Ceremony was fascinating and showed the students how we continue to learn throughout our life. The oldest person involved was 80 and the youngest was 15-years-old, which gave us all a sense of the importance of handing down knowledge and wisdom.

TEA - group pic

DMU students represented 14 different countries

“Despite the worldwide pandemic we cannot overlook the importance of international relations in business and looking at ways we can continue to manage, negotiate and serve others.

“It was an interesting moment when Japanese lecturers discovered (in Japanese) that the 19 DMU students participating come from 14 different countries. IT was something they really didn’t expect.”

“It is difficult to imagine working work customers or operating in management without consciously cultivating a respect for diversity in worldviews and values, and how to use that diversity as a resource. Intercultural communication develops this. .

Victoria Bagnall, a second year Education Studies and Mandarin student at DMU, said: “I think it's always important to experience different cultures, but I do think it has been more prevalent during lockdown.

“More online opportunities have been offered due to being unable to travel to different countries, and I even plan on applying for some of the virtual Summer School opportunities that DMU Global is offering this year.

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“This event was a lot of fun; the tour around the old building that was home to the tea house, the tour Sam gave us around the gardens and seeing the cherry blossom trees as up close and personal as is currently possible.

“It really did feel like being there, even given the time difference.

“I don't think it is something that would have been offered before lockdown started but I hope that, even when the world is somewhat back to normal, DMU Global can continue to offer these online cultural experiences.”

Haleema Riaz, who was born in Pakistan and lives in Germany, is studying Psychology with Criminology at DMU. She said: “The tea ceremony was beautiful. I was able to understand the importance of bowing and the respect between the participants. I asked so many questions afterwards.

“I felt I got to know, or should I say had a sneak peek at, Japanese culture. I stayed in the meeting for an extra 40 minutes afterwards asking questions because it was such a wonderful experience. Even Sam said something like ‘I think you guys don’t want to leave’.

TEA  - ceremony 2

Those involved in the ceremony were aged from 15 to 80

“This was something I had only ever previously seen in cartoons and movies. It was so heart- warming and incredibly educational - a completely different activity compared to other online learning programs I have done. I would definitely go to Japan to try wearing the kimono and go to a tea ceremony.”

Anna Asai, who was brought up in Japan and Denmark, is studying an MSC in Psychological Wellbeing at DMU.

She added: “I feel that having cultural events like these during lockdown is important for people’s wellbeing. As we aren’t allowed to travel, experiencing a different culture on the other side of the world in real time is amazing. Cultural events are also very informative, which anybody can learn a lot from.”

Business and Management student Perry Taylor-Weeden added: “I thoroughly enjoyed every part of this event. I especially enjoyed day one and learning more about the language. I would like to continue learning Japanese.”

The two-day event was supported by MSc Intercultural Busines Communication students Jennifer Anyanwu, Angelika Ignys and Petra Szollosyova.

To find out more about DMU Global’s online courses click here.

Posted on Tuesday 30th March 2021

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