On Saturday 5th November the Japan Foundation London held the first Japan Year Abroad Programme (J-YAP) Coordinator Conference at the Royal Asiatic Society in London. As the inaugural meeting of the new J-YAP Coordinators Network, the conference was the first opportunity for staff members involved in the administration of Year Abroad Programmes within Japanese/Japanese Studies degree courses at universities across the UK to gather to share information on how to combat common administration challenges and help enable students make the most of their unique Year Abroad programme opportunities. Participating in the discussions were 14 Year Abroad Programme Coordinators and related staff members from 11 universities which offer Japanese/Japanese studies degree courses, and members of the British Association for Japanese Studies and other key Japanese Studies related organisations.
The conference was divided into three themed sections led mainly by current Year Abroad Programme Coordinators.
The first session opened with a lively discussion on ways to utilise returning 4th year students as resources to deliver student guidance and support before and during the Year Abroad and therefore lighten the workload of J-YAP administrators, focusing on two case studies of innovative strategies put in place by UK universities.
Session 2 addressed challenges experienced by universities when sending students with diverse needs to Japan, such as negotiation with Japanese partner universities and student placement. Current Year Abroad Programme coordinators introduced their own experiences and led a discussion during which participants shared and developed practical and collaborative strategies to deal with these challenges. During this session, The Japan Foundation’s own Chief Language Advisor Makoto Netsu also introduced the JF Standard (Japanese site/English pamphlet) as an objective measure which can be used to standardise the evaluation of student’s Japanese language proficiency before and after the Year Abroad so that students can continue their language study in Japan building on their previous achievements at their home university.
The third and final session examined ways to help students make the most of the unique opportunities during the Year Abroad to help prepare for further studies on return to the UK and their future career beyond graduation. Dr Chris Perkins (British Association for Japanese Studies) explored how to integrate preparations for the fourth year dissertation not only into the Year Abroad itself, but also into the full four year degree programme as a whole. Ms Kiko Hill (Disco International Ltd.) introduced ways that students can use their time during the Year Abroad to prepare themselves for careers in Japan or Japanese companies.
Some of the feedback from participants included:
“A wonderful initiative that has the potential to have a big impact on Year Abroad coordination”
(“Thank you for this valuable opportunity. If this conference existed 15 years ago my life would have been a lot easier...”)
Following the conference the Japan Foundation has set up the Japan Year Abroad Programme (J-YAP) Network JiscMail Mailing List as a platform for university staff members to continue to share information and ideas relating to Japan Year Abroad Programmes to help each other combat common challenges and strengthen and promote Year Abroad programmes. If you are involved in administrating a Year Abroad Programme within a Japanese/Japanese Studies degree course and would be interested in joining this network please do get in touch with the Japan Foundation by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to all participants and speakers for making the J-YAP Coordinator Conference such a great success and we look forward to future J-YAP network activities!