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KGU Students Visit Canada to Join Cross-Cultural College (Global Career Seminar in Canada)

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Final presentation by the Engaged Communities student group

From February 19th to 24th, the Cross-Cultural College (CCC) Global Career Seminar in Canada was held at the University of Toronto, and 24 students from KGU participated. The CCC is a collaborative education project jointly run by Kwansei Gakuin University and four Canadian universities, which aims to educate students to become world citizens and leaders who can contribute to the growth and sustainability of a globalizing world with cross-cultural understanding and communication skills. The Global Career Seminar in Canada (GCSC) is a forum where groups of students from Canada and Japan come together to find solutions for problems that corporations and organizations have posed.

This time, GCSC participants were given tasks such as finding ways to foster the rebound of Japanese tourism to Canada, developing alternative revenue generation models for nonprofit organizations, and coming up with ideas to support employees returning to the workplace after COVID-19. After meeting with representatives, conducting research, and refining their proposals, each group gave a presentation and received feedback. Kwansei Gakuin and Canada have a relationship that dates back more than 110 years, when the Canadian Methodist Church joined the operation of Kwansei Gakuin in 1910, and C.J.L. Bates, the fourth president of Kwansei Gakuin, was a missionary from the Canadian Methodist Church. This historical connection still exists in the present day, as Mr. Omar Khan of the Engaged Communities group, which is involved with the GCSC, is the great-grandchild of Dr. Bates. Engaged Communities, a Canadian grassroots community organization in Toronto, works in a community largely comprised of youth from all around the world who are newcomers to Canada. They believe in the power of youth to serve as a transformative influence in society, and aim to work with these newcomers to increase their involvement in the community. We conducted an interview with Mr. Khan to discuss his involvement with the CCC.

Q1: First, what do you know about Kwansei Gakuin and your family’s history with the school?

My mother had talked about how her father was born in Japan. I knew that he was with the United Church in Canada and that he had been doing work in Japan for many years. A few of my cousins had visited the university and they had told me a little bit. But honestly, I really didn't know that much until the early 2010s, when I met my friend Fumi who graduated from KGU. She was telling me about the university that she went to, and I said, “You know, I think my great-grandfather was somehow connected to a university in that area.” I didn't know it was the same one. Then she sent me an article from the alumni magazine and asked, “Is this your great-grandfather?” I was like, “My God, yes, it is.”

Mr. Khan giving feedback to students
Mr. Khan giving feedback to students

Q2: Why did you decide to be involved with the CCC? What were your impressions of the program and its participants?

I really liked the idea because of what we're trying to do in our work with Engage Communities. We're working in a community with newcomers from all around the world, but just because they live in the same community doesn't mean they work together, right? You're trying to connect Japanese students with students in Canada, and all these people need to find a way to work with each other to solve a problem. It takes a lot of effort, but it's worth it to get people from different perspectives to work together.

I was really excited to hear from the students from Canada and Japan, because we gave them a hard challenge. All the groups were given really hard challenges, and I was just so impressed by how seriously the students took it and how much they thought through the problems. Our problem was “finding other ways of making money if you were a nonprofit organization working with this kind of community,” and the students came up with really good ideas. I've participated in other sorts of university-level engagement with industry, and I have to say that the amount of effort and thought that the students put in was really tremendous.

Q3: Was there a particularly memorable episode from the student presentations?

The memorable thing for me that really stuck out was that the students suggested an idea of our group mentoring youth to develop social media for local businesses, and to work closely with them to build on their social media and marketing skills. I say that's memorable because it is an idea that came up totally separately at a different meeting with a number of community members, so they were thinking on the same level as people in the community. Here in Canada, I've noticed that oftentimes we'll do things for youth, but we won't do things with youth, for youth. So it's really impressive to have the youth working on problems together to solve these issues, instead of adults coming in and telling everyone what to do.

Q4: Do you have a message for KGU students who are interested in taking part in the CCC?

I was talking to some of the Japanese students and they told me, at first it's pretty hard, right? You're in a whole new environment. When you come to Canada, it can be quite different, but they really liked it. Beyond just practicing their language skills and seeing a new culture, they actually had to work within it. That's the thing. You can travel somewhere and you can see the sights and do all that stuff, but with this program, they actually had to work with people from different backgrounds to solve a difficult thing together. And I think that's a really valuable skill for everyone. You could see them having a good time getting to know the students from Canada and getting a chance to work on things that were very different from what they're used to. I hope that continues. I was so impressed with the CCC and would enjoy participating in the future.

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