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Reports on Global Praxis 2015 A semester / A2 term

Italy

Italy: Agriculture and Community     Haruka Ishi (LI)
I don’t hate eating. If anything, I would say that I like it. But I really hate eating things that don’t taste good, and if that is the only thing available, I would rather not eat at all. I was raised in an environment where being able to eat good food was taken for granted, because I was born in modern-day Japan where food is abundant, and have never had to experience going hungry. However, what does good food really mean? Humans have to eat to survive, so shouldn’t any food be considered good food? But no, taste is subjective and each person’s taste buds react differently, identifying different tastes as “good.” My tongue is ridiculously picky, much pickier than most people, and if something isn’t really delicious then I refuse to eat it. Human beings’ sense of taste is a mystery. I find that I have tired of my own intense fussiness.

Fortunately, I like Italian food, even with my picky tongue. I love good food almost too much, and I am more interested in food than the average person. I often wonder what other people from other cultures are eating, how they produce that food and how they live. How is what they eat different from the food that I know, and then again how is it similar? I wanted to visit a foreign country and use my own five senses to really experience that culture’s food, from production to the dinner table. I departed for Italy to satiate my hunger, expecting the new discoveries and fresh surprises that come from visiting a foreign country. 

First off I should mention that not all the Italian food we ate suited my palate, and to be completely honest, even compared with Italian food in Japan, most of the food we ate seemed…average. Although when I consider my normal picky eating habits I realize that I should have expected this. However, I was able to experience something greater than simply tasting different foods. With everything that I ate, I felt Italian peoples’ love for their home and their high standards for local foods.
 
I learned more on this trip than I can fit on this page, but for now I will focus on three main aspects of the trip. The first is food production, the second is those who provide food and cuisine to others and the third is those who enjoy that food or cuisine.

First off, the experience of actually visiting sites of food production was a valuable one which I could not have experienced had I not gone on this trip with the university. In Parma, we visited a Parmigiano-Reggiano factory and a prosciutto factory. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and prosciutto are both produced in only a few select factories that still use traditional production methods which make use of Parma’s natural climate. The craftsmanship that goes into production is important, and it takes more than 30 years of training before a craftsman can start his own business. Also, by staying at an agricultural tourism lodge which raised cattle I was able to experience living on a farm that produced the milk used in cheese production. On top of that, we visited an agricultural tourism center which oversaw agricultural land close to the city and other social agricultural sites and there were able to see of various aspects of Italian agriculture.

Secondly, we visited places where Italian people actually go, rather than just going to tourist spots, and I found this experience very interesting. We saw markets in Torino and Bologna. These markets were the kitchens of Italy, overflowing with the energy of those actually living there. We also stayed in five different areas in northern Italy and enjoyed lunch and dinner at local restaurants. Wherever we ate, I could feel the warmth and comfort of food made in traditional methods, using the local foods of that regions. From this experience we were able to feel the regional flavors of Italian cuisine.

Finally, we learned two new things about those who consume and enjoy Italian food. First, we learned about a way of thinking which associates a sort of spirituality with slow food. We visited The University of Gastronomic Sciences, which was founded by Slow Food International, an organization which promotes positive attitudes about food around the world. There we participated in a Piedmont cuisine cooking class and a taste experiment, and listened to a lecture on the principles of and education provided at The University of Gastronomic Sciences. I admired the enthusiasm and meticulousness with which people regarded food. The perception of and ideology associated with food which we learned about at the University of Gastronomic Sciences is only one aspect of a bigger picture. However, it is a seed that may lead to us dealing with food in a more positive, proactive way. We gained another piece of valuable information while eating at local restaurants. We noticed how people were enjoying food by taking time to share meals with close friends and family over good conversation, which emphasized the importance of food in the everyday lives of Italian people. From this I learned not getting caught up in our busy lives and taking time to really enjoy food while we eat it, which is something that we have to do every day, can sometimes give us a sense of peace.
 
I didn’t just learn about food on this trip. While I watched people of different races, who speak in a language different from mine while bustling about in their daily lives, I was able to successfully appreciate the “life” and “culture” of a different place. Also, I met various people and was able to speak with them. My dealings with these people helped give even greater depth to what I learned in Italy. For example, through exchanges with the students at Milano University, I learned about the differences between our two cultures and had a chance to rethink my views about my own country of Japan. Also, I learned new things about Italy from Mr. Tominaga’ talk at the Milano Japanese Consulate. On top of that, the experience of discussing and sharing opinions with Professor Osawa and the other members of our group was stimulating because I was able to view my own thoughts and opinions in a new light. I would like to thank Professor Osawa and the other members of our group. After 11 days together, visiting tourist spots and sharing meals together, I regretted that we had to part.

Being in Italy, seeing a different gastronomic culture, using my own five senses to learn and sense cultural differences, as well as glimpsing the lives of various peoples in a new environment invoked in me a new academic interest. Even more than that, I was able to rethink what it means to “eat,” or in other words, what it means “to live.” I will use this experience to become a more global person, who uses their global perspective to interact with a wide range of other cultures and foods in a proactive way.

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Malaysia

Malaysia: Multiethnic and Multicultural Society  Kosuke Hasegawa (LIII)
The course “Malaysia: Multiethnic and Multicultural Society” was aimed to deepen our understanding of the variety of religion, race and culture in Malaysia and especially the industries related to Islam through a pre-studying program at Komaba campus and a study-trip to Malaysia. Unfortunately, the tour which was planned for March 6th to 13th was cancelled, because of the increased danger of terrorism. It was an fascinating and elaborate study-program made in cooperation with the authority in Malaysia (included visiting local universities and even a session with Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister of Malaysia), so the cancellation was very disappointing. However, many people from Professor Nanako Sawayanagi down made the pre-studying program and the substitute classes enjoyable and intensive, so we had a very good time.

We learned three things through this program. First, we learned a lot about Islam. Through careful consideration of its roots and present situations, we learned that Islam, which is sometimes regarded as problematic, consist of humane and logical ideas. For example, Muslims go on a fast once a year in the Ramadan month in order to understand the feelings of the poor. After sunset, dinner which is paid by Zakat, donations from the rich, is treated to the poor. Moreover, we went to see Tokyo Camii, a mosque near Yoyogiuehara-Station. We saw the solemn interior, and we felt refreshed. On the other hand, Professor Tetsuya Sahara at Meiji University talked to us about the threat of terrorism which is spread globally by the Islamic-State (IS) and has now become an everyday event.

Next, we learned about the variety of race and culture, by studying the case of Malaysia, which has many racial groups. In Malaysia, with 60% Malaysian, 30% Chinese, 10% Indian and other minorities, there are many situations caused by the variety of race and culture. It’s not only about culture, but also about political and economic matters, which might at first seem unrelated to the racial variety. Mr. Kawabata Takashi, who works at NewsPicks, talked about the political situation in Malaysia. He said that there are many racial parties in Malaysia, and races may become harmonious. In Japan we don’t think about the variety of race, so the topic was new and surprising.

Lastly, we studied deeply about the Halal Industry and Islamic finance, which are developing in Malaysia. Islam has some precepts about food, like Muslims can’t eat pork, so certificating foods which are suitable for the precepts (called Halal) is a big business, and Malaysia is a hub of the industry. Mr. Akmal Abu Hassan, the CEO of the Malaysia Halal Corporation (MHC) said that Japan should promote this business in order to accommodate Muslim visitors. It is so to speak Omotenashi (treatment) in Japanese. We felt that to start with Japan should get ready to take in foreigners like Muslims for the Tokyo Olympic Game in 2020.

Even though we couldn’t study in Malaysia, we could learn a lot of things thanks to Professor Sawayanagi and many others' cooperation, and we all greatly appreciate their help.

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Mr. Akmal talks about Halal and Japanese Society.

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Visit to Tokyo Cami at Yoyogi Uehara

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Visit to Tokyo Cami at Yoyogi Uehara

Australia

Advanced English at Sydney University    A. S. (SIII)
39 students participated in this program with Professor Sawayanagi and Mr. Sato as our guides. Our main purpose was to participate in programs at CET (Centre for English Teaching) for two weeks from January 11th to 22nd.

We were divided into two courses, General English and Graduate Academic Skills (GAS), based on an exam conducted at Komaba beforehand. There was 1 GE class and 5 GAS classes. The number of the students from the University of Tokyo was limited to 7. I participated in the GAS course.

GAS is a program held for five weeks during summer break for students who will enter a master course at the University of Sydney the following semester. We were allowed to join the second and the third weeks of the course.

The aims of the lectures were to judge the credibility of the papers we read, to brainstorm, to write literature review, to give a presentation, and to write an essay on what we had thought about deeply using information from sources we gathered. Discussing research and study methods in class was really new to me, and I was a little surprised. There were many students from Asia whose native language was not English. They stimulated us a lot, and I especially was amazed at their presentation skills. I think it was good to get to know students from other countries and make friends with them.

The GE and GAS lectures finished at noon and we took part in various programs prepared for us by CET prepared in the afternoon. Specifically, a tour around the campus of the University of Sydney, two workshops to improve our international communication skills and the ability to solve problems, doing homework with support of the students of the University of Sydney, two lectures from two professors of the University of Sydney about the history of Australia and Australian indigenous people, and a visit to National Museum of Australia.

We did not have lectures or specific programs on the weekend and in the evening on weekdays, so we were free to enjoy sightseeing in Sydney. For example, Taronga Zoo, Bondai Beach, Manly Beach and Blue Mountains were popular places to visit.

There were also two events Professor Sawayanagi and Mr. Sato planned. We saw “La Bohème” at the Sydney Opera House on January 13th. Also, we had the opportunity to talk with alumni of the University of Tokyo living in Sydney. These two events were truly unique opportunities.

We learned many things from these special experiences. Finally, I would like to say thank you to everyone who supported us during this course, especially to Professor Sawayanagi and Mr. Sato. Thank you very much.

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The Campus of Sydney University

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Circular Quay
Advanced English at Sydney University (TLP)      Shunsuke Matsuno(LII)
On January 10th, we traveled from cold midwinter Japan to hot midsummer Sydney. In this international study program, we participated in a two-week English class held by The Center for English Teaching (CET). We learned academic writing skills from CET instructors in the morning and joined various activities in which we were able to experience Sydney’s culture in the afternoon.

First, I am going to write about the academic writing class. We had to to complete an academic essay at the end of the class, and, with this goal in mind, we learned all manner of writing skills. The Tokyo University students were separated into 5 classes, and each class was made up of Tokyo students and Chinese students. In the class, we had a lot of opportunities to talk in small groups about various topics. I got the impression that the Chinese students` English level was not that high. However, they certainly had their own unique opinions, and I enjoyed exchanging opinions with the Chinese students who had different cultural backgrounds from me.

After the class, we had various activities such as participating in guest lectures and making videos with student ambassadors from Sydney University. To tell the truth, I found most of the activities somewhat dull. However, I found one lecture particularly interesting in which we made pairs with Chinese students and studied cross cultural communication. In this way, I was able deepen my understanding not only of China but also of Japan by discussing the culture and conventions of each county.

On the weekends, because we did not have class or other activities, we spent most of the time sightseeing. I went to the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, Manly Beach, and the Blue Mountains etc. When I took a trip away from the center of Sydney, I saw a lot of vegetation and was able to lesson my daily fatigue.

Overall, this program was interesting and fun. The program owes its success to the program organizers Dr. Sawayanagi and Mr. Sato, the Tokyo students who joined this program with me, and the teachers at Sydney University. I hope this program will continue to develop further.

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Smile after Graduation Ceremony

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Discussion with Friends
UTokyo/ANU Exchange in Tokyo,
W. K. (Natural Science I)

I think our group did well with daily reflection. We gathered every day and discussed for about an hour. Through the course, I learned a lot of things, and I have chosen some to reflect on here. What I found most interesting was the gender problem involving mountains in Japan. I did not know that there are still mountains which women cannot access. What was more surprising was that the local women supported this custom. I could not logically understand this reasoning and therefore found it interesting.
I also gained a lot through this course in terms of skills and attitudes toward learning. During lectures at the University of Tokyo, it is unusual for students to ask questions. However, in this program, we were encouraged to do so, and there were several questions asked in each session. This was a fresh experience for me and I was able to ask questions and participate in the discussions as well. It was a great experience. My attitude towards lectures changed and became more positive.
What I appreciated most about this program is that we were divided into five groups. Due to this group system, we were able to exchange a lot with one another. Every day after lectures we spent our free time together, and the more formal meetings with group members were also really meaningful. I had many opportunities to communicate with ANU students, which improved my English and communication skills.
The last thing I want to mention is that because I participated in the first part of the program, conducted in Japan, I was able enjoy myself in Australia during the ANU program as well. Because we had a chance to experience a similar program in Tokyo, we did not hesitate to proactively participate in the ANU program. Therefore, we were able to experience a great number of things starting right from the very first day in Australia. Moreover, even though the group system was not used in Australia, I still spent most of my stay with my ANU friends.

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In an interview task

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Beautiful view!!
UTokyo/ANU Exchange in Canberra/Kioloa,
E. U. (Humanities and Social Sciences I, Junior Division)
I decided to participate in this program because I didn’t want to just go abroad and study English. I was interested in learning in English interactively, through lectures and field trips. The courses covered diverse topics from art to environmental issues, and I was able to come in contact with academic disciplines that I had never studied at my own university. Also, because we were spending almost all day every day with the ANU students, I had the opportunity to think about how to build good relationships and become friends with people of a different culture, with different customs and ways of thinking. In my own way I think that I was successful in this. I think that as long as you participate in this program knowing what you want to accomplish, you will have many constructive experiences. Due to the kind professors and TA’s who were always there to help when I had a problem or wasn’t sure of something on my own, the time I spent in Australia was very valuable.

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Visiting Australian National Botanic Gardens

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Participated in a series of seminars

Turkmenistan

Reports by the course participants are available at the course website.
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