This fall, 31 students — 15 from MIT and 16 from UTokyo — participated in a virtual exchange.

Each student was paired with a partner and met three times in late October and early November. During the one-hour meetings, students spent half the time discussing their favorite topics in Japanese, and then in English for another 30 minutes. After the meetings, students were asked to create short video clips based on their exchanges. The topics they discussed included: elections in Japan and America, student life at MIT/UT during COVID-19, language differences; favorite foods.

Students were enthusiastic about the language/cultural exchange. “I loved this program. I would have liked it to be a little longer since only 3 meetings seemed so short!”  said one participant. “The program was a very important experience for me,” declared another. A third student said, “I really enjoyed the program, and I wish it was longer. It might be helpful to have ‘topics’ for each week to help guide discussions, as sometimes we didn’t know what to talk about.”

The organization committee included Chris Pilcavage (Managing Director, MIT-Japan Program), Takako Aikawa (Senior Lecturer in Japanese, MIT Global Languages), and Prof. Asako Uchibori (Professor of English at University of Tokyo). Takako Aikawa, pointed out, “This type of international language exchange program not only helps our students improve their language skills but it also helps them build a strong sense of ‘community’ while nurturing collaboration between MIT students and UTokyo students.  In this respect, it is extremely important.  Besides, many students said, ‘We loved it!’ ” Aikawa said that the organizers hope to continue the program in the future.