Forging Connections: The Japanese Cultural Exchanges By: Andrea Rentuza, Grade 10

It is a known fact that the ongoing pandemic has put a stop to numerous plans both great and small; it has held a pause button in nearly all aspects of our lives. Unexpected and sudden as this pandemic is, the merits of Childlink’s resourcefulness and ingenuity shine as beacons in times of darkness.

We are well-acquainted with Childlink’s proximity and involvement with the community. A notable aspect would be the school’s various advocacies under the Zonta Club. In fact, in an international level, it has been a practice for Childlink high schoolers to be invited to travel abroad once every year to advocate for Zonta. With the upsurge of the pandemic, however, this practice had to be withdrawn.

Nevertheless, another opportunity had presented itself. The combined efforts of schools in Japan such as Baika Women’s University and Maryknoll University, along with Childlink, have allowed students—from their schools and ours—to participate in virtual cultural exchanges throughout the months of September 2020 to January 2021.

Baika Women’s University

 

The exchange took place last year, specifically on September 18. Students from this university, as well as female Linkers from the Grade 10 class, utilized the Zoom online platform to hold the meeting. This was the first virtual exchange that we Linkers had ever participated in. As uncommon and new as the experience was, it had progressed rather ideally. We were given the chance to introduce ourselves to one another and bond through games and activities—sharing topics like famous food in Japan and the Philippines, among other things. The meeting was a memorable and enjoyable experience to see through the lens of these other students and share in their culture just as we have shared ours.

 

Maryknoll University

 

The entire Grade 10 class, along with some teachers, were able to participate in this exchange via Microsoft Teams. Upon entering the meeting, students from both schools introduced themselves to one another. Needless to say, it was easy to get that warm and light-hearted feeling upon seeing one student after the other, smiling and stepping forward to say hello and do a brief introduction, with an occasional shy smile or wave of a hand.

Later on, we discussed the Friendship and Wellness Program held by our class during the previous school year. In turn, they shared their own research presentations about global warming, poverty, and the pandemic, as well as their volunteer work for their local hospital (making medical gowns). To conclude the exchange, we introduced the song “Bahay Kubo” to them, and did a short sing-along.

Along the month of December, some students of our class were assigned to exchange Christmas cards with them. The anticipation and excitement that came along would certainly be something to remember, because not only would we be creating a card, but we would be receiving one from them as well.  We were even encouraged by our teachers to become pen pals, so that we may write to each other even on spare occasions.

Our most recent cultural exchange with them happened last January 19. This time around, we were sharing about famous pieces of literature and music. It was appealing to be introduced to this aspect of one another’s culture. Themes such as love, heroism, and friendship were the common ground of what we have discussed. Art, no matter where it hails, has the ability to bring people of different backgrounds together.

 

The Overall Experience

 

Although oceans apart and scattered in different corners of the world, one could easily feel a sense of companionship and connection. True, we see their faces merely through a flat screen and hear their voices out of the computers’ speakers, but the very bond we have—however big or small—is entirely of our own making. Whatever platform is used to connect with others, online or upfront, gives one the opportunity to reach out and explore.

If there is one thing that Childlink has taught its Linkers, it is that obstacles can be turned into bridges—forging lasting connections and welcoming new possibilities.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *