Twenty-one students from Japan were able to sample a taste of UK university life first-hand at the University of Leicester over a February weekend.
The University's English Language Teaching Unit played host at a hall of residence to the Japanese students, who came from various colleges and universities in Japan. They were on a visit to the UK with the World Youth Visit Exchange Association (WYVEA), an organisation under the jurisdiction of the Japan Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture.
The Group had specifically asked if they could meet some Leicester students to exchange ideas and learn about student life and they turned out to be delighted with the response. Twenty-five Leicester students turned out for the whole week-end and participated in an event that will long be remembered. As Miss Yukiko Kondo, one of the group members said: "I enjoyed the University of Leicester experience immensely. I had been feeling tense when we arrived, but the slide presentation and the friendly approach of the Leicester students soon dispelled that tension. Japan Night was great. I had been worried about whether the Leicester students would be interested or not, but they certainly were. Leicester is a lovely University."
Dr Johnathan Young, Warden of College Hall, emphasised how impressive the Japan Night had been: "For me, the undoubted highlight of the whole weekend was the Japanese evening, organised entirely by our student guests. We were welcomed in true Japanese style and were initially entertained with music and dance. We then broke off into smaller groups to sample Japanese refreshments -including the traditional tea drinking ceremony."
A visit to the theatre that evening to see a performance of the Wizard of Oz proved to be thoroughly popular with the 48 participants. Jonathan Rawle, a final-year Physics student at the University of Leicester said: "This was the perfect choice for an evening's entertainment, as the story is just as popular in Japan as here, and besides, the spectacular special effects made the play worth seeing, even without full comprehension of the dialogue."
Early morning sports and a visit to Warwick Castle on Sunday found the two sets of students forging new friendships which will undoubtedly endure. Only the weather was not welcoming.
The success of the visit is reflected in demands for it to be repeated, Martin Kenworthy, Director of the Language Services Unit, said: "Everyone was anxious that the visit should become an annual event - a view seconded by our own students, many of whom have already booked their tickets for next year and have enquired about learning Japanese in the Language Centre."
Johnathan Young concluded: "Overall I am left with an abiding impression of sheer joy and unbridled congeniality experienced by all who were present. We learned so much from each other, and made many new friends. The weekend was a huge success in every way - so much so that some of our guests are already talking of coming back to Leicester for a postgraduate year."
Mr Isamu Yamaguchi, Group Leader added: "Thanks to all the Leicester students for the wonderful welcome you gave us and for hosting us so well. The discussion session was a most valuable experience for the Japanese students, and we hope that "Japan Night" gave you some kind of glimpse of Japanese culture and humour. The University of Leicester was the highlight of our trip."
Note to editors: Further information about the weekend and pictures are available from Martin Kenworthy, Director of the Language Services Unit, University of Leicester, tel +44 116 252 2664, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Japanese contact is Jun Kiya, e-mail email@example.com, telephone +81-3-5215-3231, fax +81-3-3261-3090.
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