I have just completed a teaching stint in Tokyo, Japan for a year under the auspices of the Asia-Oceania Five University Alliance (AOFUA) composed of De la Salle University (Philippines), Edith Cowan University (Australia), Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (Malaysia), Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (Thailand), and Tokyo City University (Japan). Tokyo City University, a university in Tokyo with a long history of hands-on technical education dating back to 1929, leads the alliance.
Globalization posed challenges to society at large and universities help in meeting these by the process of internationalizing by educating the youth to contribute to national competitiveness. Through activities that integrate a global perspective into its educational system, internationalization makes internal changes and external adaptation to a volatile, global and diverse environment possible.
Tokyo City University, initiated this alliance to foster globalization among their students to prepare them for life and work in an increasingly global society. Japan, through its Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, released a Global Human Resource Development Committee of the Industry-Academia Partnership for Human Resource Development Report in 2010, which highlighted the knowledge and skills deemed necessary for human resources, especially among the Japanese, to be considered “global.”
These include linguistic and communication skills, with English becoming foremost, cultural understanding and sense of identity as Japanese, and a sense of responsibility, optimism, collaboration, flexibility, and purpose. The overall goal is to develop the students as human resources who can play an active role globally. All other universities in the alliance share this common mission.
The Asia-Oceania Five University Alliance provides professors’ opportunities among the five universities to provide diversified education in English. As a professor from De la Salle University, Philippines, I taught business courses such as Global Business Theory, Career Preparation for Global Business, Global Management Culture, and Strategy to undergraduate and graduate students of Tokyo City University, mostly Japanese.
The courses are not only meant to develop English language proficiency. They also seek to provide benefits to students by giving them a wider perspective on their lives and potential careers through knowledge of cultures, making them more exposed and prepared for the global workplace.
This is my first-hand intensive experience in the internationalization of universities. If I were to describe my collection of experiences for one year in Japan, I think a mosaic would best describe it. A mosaic is a collection of many small pieces, glass or ceramic, or people or of their values that are intentionally placed together to form a whole. Each piece is separate yet integral to the whole. Each piece is distinct yet integrated.
I am a Filipina who thrived and enjoyed her experience in Japanese society. My culture is distinct, yet I blended with the Japanese way of life. Key to this rewarding experience is a good social network and supportive friends and colleagues, who I came across in a common workplace, in the Church and events. They helped me with daily life and transitions in integrating into a new environment.
I was helped with mundane concerns to transition to a new life in Japan, such as house hunting, finding acceptable food and places for social life. Friends provide comfort in a more straightforward language: a space for humor, confidence, chat about books and films, food and drink. They are persons whom I can share concerns with, who rejoice with me in my successes and support me in my struggles. These made my transition well and quick, including making preparations for disasters such as Storm Hagibis, which Japan is prone to.
At work, I experienced a positive and collegial atmosphere. Management and colleagues were friendly and considerate. There was fair treatment, and it was easy to establish relationships with diverse colleagues and fit in the workplace. I enjoyed my colleagues’ company, especially as we spend time together, eat lunch during breaks.
I was also able to practice skills, build good relations, and help people. My teaching skills were enhanced by adapting to the Japanese educational system, including students, level of technology, and academic orientation. I taught in innovative programs such as Knowledge Engineering, Urban Life Studies, Informatics and Environmental Studies in the university’s three campuses located in Yokohama, Setagaya, and Todoroki.
I believe I also developed myself better through people I met, friends, and colleagues alike, with whom interactions resulted in an awareness of different worldviews and developing an appreciation and respect for differences. I found a special connection with friends who make me feel complete and fill my heart with peace and security. I was myself and enjoyed the experience of being in Japan. I like flowers, going to Churches, clean facilities, efficient transportation, touristic places, both natural and manmade. I experienced all of these, and it sure brought me a lot of joy and enjoyment.
These experiences make a colorful mosaic for me, that is, Japan. I fondly look back to it as a rich collection of aspirations, pursuits, setbacks, challenges and achievements. These are the pieces of an inherent ecology of the whole. I keep a special place in my heart of minds that melded and unbreakable bonds established in my one year stay. My wish for the future is to take root, develop fully, spread and last for the benefit of faculty, students, and staff who will take part in internationalization programs like this.
The author is a full-time faculty member of the Management and Organization Department, Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. She recently returned from a year-long stay in Japan.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of De La Salle University, its faculty, and its administrators.