Contact: Nicol Tinsley
VCU Global Education Office
Phone: (804) 828-6463
Richmond, VA (November 20, 2020) — During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Virginia Commonwealth University Global Education Office has found new ways to provide meaningful experiences to students in a virtual environment. Since the pandemic arrived, the VCU Globe living-learning program has reimagined its curriculum, adding several virtual classes that do just that.
The classes, developed in partnership with Lifelong Learning Center of Chesterfield (LLI), a center offering ongoing learning opportunities for seniors, seeks to develop inter-generational and intercultural connections between VCU students and seniors in the Richmond area.
"We have always believed in fostering community, and the physical distancing requirements of COVID-19 have served as a catalyst for us to think of new ways to create connection," said Audrey Short, interim assistant director of academic programming and campus outreach coordinator for VCU Globe.
"The purpose of these collaborations is to explore how we can socially and emotionally connect during a time of physical disconnection and high stress through the topics of cooking, photography, storytelling and resilience," said Short. In addition to these topics, the annual student exchange program existing between VCU Globe and Shimane University in Japan has continued through a virtual Japanese language course. While taking this eight-week course, VCU Globe and Shimane students meet weekly with LLI members to learn Japanese. The course is taught by Yoko Eshita, a community Japanese language and culture teacher.
“By learning about languages and cultures, we better understand what unites us while accepting our differences and coming to appreciate them," Eshita said.
Eshita has received positive feedback from students in the class and feels it is important to provide this learning opportunity to the college students and the LLI participants.
"Being able to think from multiple perspectives and communicate effectively are important in this global world," she said. "Having a class with both students and LLI members creates the opportunity for them to collaborate with people of differing backgrounds by using intercultural, inter-generational and interpersonal communication skills."
Students agree. VCU sophomore and Globe student, Gabriel Molina has enjoyed taking the Japanese course with the LLI community and the Shimane students.
"I have benefited tremendously from the Japanese courses along with interacting with the LLI members and the Shimane students," he said. "At first, I was a little intimidated by the LLI members, because I thought they were going to be judgmental of the interactions I had with them. But it was quite the opposite, they were very carefree and kind."
Four Shimane University students serve as teaching assistants in the class, gaining invaluable experience from afar in Japan. The students assist during breakout sessions by maintaining conversation between the participants, explaining Japanese culture, and translating words they may not know or understand.
Anno Miyoshi, a sophomore majoring in elementary education, has gained experience that will help with her future goals.
"I am interested in teaching Japanese overseas so I was able to learn some of the teaching methods," she said.
"Also, I thought it was a good idea for university students and senior citizens to collaborate together to learn something new. I want to be an elementary school teacher in the future, so I would like to use technology to connect elementary school students who have started learning English. I hope this would be a new way of teaching and learning."
For more information about virtual programs offered by the Global Education Office, visit the GEO Events Calendar and virtual study abroad opportunities website.