Reflection on Learner-Led Study Abroad Events in a SAC from Three Perspectives: A Learner, an Administrative Staff Member, and an Advisor

Mizuki Shibata, Kanda University of International Studies
Chihiro Hayashi, Kanda University of International Studies
Yuri Imamura, Kanda University of International Studies

Shibata, M., Hahashi, C., & Imamura, Y. (2020). Reflection on learner-led study abroad events in a SAC from three perspectives: A learner, an administrative staff member, and an advisor. Relay Journal, 3(1), 66-79. https://doi.org/10.37237/relay/030106

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Abstract

This paper reports on a case study of learner-led study-abroad events in the language learning space at a Japanese University. We present multiple reflections on the events from different perspectives: the event organizer (student), an administrative staff member, and a learning advisor working at the center. We also introduce the support system that a group of administrative staff members and learning advisors are in charge of helping learners to hold their events. Moreover, throughout our reflections, several factors that made the learner-led study-abroad events sustainable and successful are demonstrated.

Keywords: learner-led events, language learning spaces, reflection, study-abroad

 

Social dimensions as an aspect of learning have been getting more attention in Language Learning Spaces (LLSs) (Murray & Fujishima, 2013; Mynard, 2019), supporting learner-led events and communities is believed to be conducive to promoting social interactions. There are several studies on student communities in LLSs (i.e. Hughes, Krug, & Vye, 2011; Kanai & Imamura, 2019); however, papers focusing on not only learners but also LLS practitioners are needed to further understand the diversity of support that exists beyond the classroom. Thus, this paper attempts to include multiple reflections on a series of learner-led study abroad events from three perspectives: a fourth-year student organizing the events, an administrative staff member, and a learning advisor (LA) working at the center.

Context

Located in Chiba, Japan, this private university specializes in foreign language studies and international communication, with a student population of approximately 4000 undergraduates and postgraduates. The university has had its self-access learning center (SALC) since 2001, in which students can explore their own learning processes, with support from learning advisors or their fellow students.

Since the current SALC opened in 2017, social interactions for learning have become a central priority in the space, and in line with this shift, several LAs and administrative staff members were allocated to a learning community team starting from the 2019-20 academic year. The team’s main role is to help students to organize learning communities and/or learners’ events. Learning communities are groups of learners who learn about a common interest and language goal together. Learners’ events are events in which learners can share things that they are passionate about (e.g., Scandinavian culture). The events are normally held just once each (SALC Brochure, 2019). One thing we would like to highlight is that every learner, including not only students but also teachers and university staff, all have access to both learning communities and learners’ events. In the 2019-20 academic year, 10 learning communities have been active, and more than 30 learners’ events were held. We expect the number of learners’ events to increase in the upcoming academic year.

Support for learners’ events

The organizers of learners’ events are mostly student groups, classes, or individual students. They can submit a learners’ event application form through the SALC website by themselves, or they can talk to an LA first in order to brainstorm their ideas and then submit the form later. The fields on the learners’ event application form include the organizer’s name, type of event (e.g., presentation, discussion, show, or other), event title, date, place, purpose, target audience, and language. The organizers are encouraged to choose one language other than Japanese in order to promote target language use in the SALC. After the submission, the organizers meet with an LA and an administrative staff member in order to discuss the contents. After getting approval from the SALC, the organizers start preparations and promotion for their event. The administrative staff member prepares any materials requested by the organizers and advertises through the online campus bulletin board, social networking services, and posters that are displayed in the SALC (see Appendix A for an example of event posters).  The organizers, LA, and administrative staff member have a final meeting prior to the event day to confirm how the organizers will proceed on the actual day of the event.

Study Abroad Prep

There were a series of three learners’ events called Study Abroad Prep that we are reflecting on in this paper. They were intended to support students planning for or hoping to study abroad. Each event was held for 45 minutes at lunchtime.

Language use. Our events were held in both English and Japanese because the SALC encourages students to use their target language to some degree. Thus, the handout and the feedback form (via Google Forms) were written in English. As for speaking, the theme of each event was mainly introduced in English; yet, our participants could choose their preferred language in discussion. This choice was because the event organizer (Shibata) expected that many first-year students would join our events, so the use of Japanese was helpful for them to ask questions that they might not be able to explain in English.

Place. One of the classrooms in the SALC was used for holding the events, because the desks and chairs were easy to move. Also, the room contains a projector so that the event organizer and upperclassmen can show their photos taken while studying abroad if needed. While holding the events, we intentionally opened all of the doors in order to welcome anyone interested in our events (see Appendix B).

Meeting minutes. We held seven meetings in total for the planning of the three separate study-abroad events. In every meeting, we kept everything we discussed in our meeting minutes in a shared Google Docs document. Although we had taken physical memos individually for previous events, we used Google Docs for these events’ meetings in order to share ideas for poster designs and handouts, as well as for feedback from the  event participants, which could then include in the same, shared document. Utilizing the meeting minutes was helpful for us to look back on the previous event(s) and plan for the next event based on our reflection and the feedback. We feel this has helped us to develop a more effective, sustainable planning process.

Before Holding the Events: Our Motivation

In this section, we describe what led to our interest in organizing and/or supporting the study-abroad events. Reflections are included from the LA, administrative staff member, and event organizer.

Perspective from the LA (Imamura)

Student-initiated study-abroad events have been held in the SALC annually for a number of years. In 2018, one of the SALC student staff members shared her study-abroad experience with me, particularly with unexpected struggles she had experienced and actions to deal with the problems. This casual advising session later led her to hold a study-abroad event. That event was focused on the challenges that students experienced when studying abroad. While observing the event, I noticed that many underclassmen seemed relieved after considering possible solutions for the issues with older peers. In addition, I felt that the event was a great opportunity to build new relationships between participants and event organizers, and that feeling inspired me to keep supporting events on studying abroad.

Perspective from the administrative staff member (Hayashi)

When I was transferred from the student affairs division in 2018, I saw the same study-abroad event that Imamura mentioned above. I noticed that students had their enthusiasm to share their experiences, and their eyes sparkled with passion. During the 2019-20 academic year, I began working as a member of the learning community team in order to support event organizers. In particular, I have tried to encourage their ideas and motivations for holding events. The organizers need to prepare adequately, consider what is possible or not for their event, and find their own answers in order to make the event come to fruition. My motivation is to see the growth of the organizers. As for the study-abroad events in 2019, I asked Shibata whether he was interested in holding a study-abroad event, because I knew that he had studied in the U.S. for a year in 2018. When I worked in the student affairs division, I was in charge of organizing the Freshman Orientation Camp (FOC)––i.e., where freshman students gain basic understanding of the university and meet with their classmates, upperclassmen, and teachers. Shibata had also joined the FOC as one of the upperclassmen so as to help underclassmen set their own goals, learn about self management skills that can be useful in their university lives, and build new relationships with their fellow students. I saw Shibata’s outgoing personality, leadership, and talent for involving other students in the camp. He shared both his good and difficult experiences at the time when he finished studying abroad and came back to the university. When I asked him if he was interested in holding an event to share his experiences, he told me many ideas and images he had for the event. Therefore, I introduced Shibata to Imamura, hoping that he could gain something from holding a learners’ event. This is what subsequently led to the study-abroad events in 2019.

Perspective from the event organizer (Shibata)

Hayashi told me about the possibility of holding an event about studying abroad. I was thinking about holding the event in order to create an environment where underclassmen planning to study abroad in English-speaking countries could talk and create connections with students who had already studied abroad. I had three reasons for wanting to hold this event. My first reason was to promote more opportunities for underclassmen to connect with upperclassmen. This is because I had been getting many questions about studying abroad from students when joining study-abroad fairs organized by international affairs. I thought they needed to hear from students other than myself to get more information about studying abroad. Secondly, I wanted to promote opportunities for them to express their thoughts. Although it is obvious that talking to students who have already studied abroad is important, it is also helpful for students to talk with peers who are in the same situation and share their plans or problems while they are planning. Finally, I wanted to help students think about actions that they can and/or need to take for studying abroad effectively while still living in Japan. This is important for students who are planning to go study abroad to know how to best prepare before heading to another country.

While Organizing the Events

In this section, we introduce how the event organizer (Shibata) held the study-abroad events, including the theme of each event as well as reflection from SALC practitioners (Hayashi and Imamura).

Event information and the event organizer’s reflection (Shibata)

There were three events in total, and we had a theme for each event. The first event was for upperclassmen to share their stories from studying abroad. I assembled four of my friends who had studied abroad in the previous year. I intentionally invited them because they had studied abroad in various ways, such as an exchange program organized through the university (in Japanese, kokan ryugaku) and self-funded study-abroad program (in Japanese, shihi ryugaku). We made five groups and shared our stories about studying abroad, including information such as where we went, what we studied, and where we stayed. Then, we rotated between groups so that each participant could get a chance to talk with each of us in a small group. Later, feedback and requests for the next event were collected from the participants. The event was smooth and had no problems, but when participants asked me some questions, they asked me about the country or the information that they can look at using the school’s student web portal. Therefore, when talking with them, I could feel that the participants desired and needed more information connected to studying abroad.

In the second event, we focused on helping participants who want to study abroad in the future think more deeply about their plan and make it more specific. I decided upon this theme based on my reflection on the previous event. I wanted participants to have more specific plans for studying abroad, so we provided an opportunity to think about what they needed and to research further regarding studying abroad. This is a common struggle that inexperienced students have. They have the desire to study abroad, but they tend to lack information about what they can do while abroad, or about programs available while studying abroad, or about countries, and especially about non-native countries of English such as Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. For instance, in Sweden and Finland, students can join a program in which they visit elementary or junior high schools and learn about the educational system, and they can get the information beforehand. For our event, I made a goal setting worksheet (see Appendix C) and gave the event participants time to discuss what they wrote on the worksheet and share their ideas. On the worksheet, I put “Why” on each question such as a country they want to study abroad in order to let them write the reason for each answer. To think about “Why” on each question invites participants to think deeply and specifically about their own future plan to study abroad. During the event, we collected feedback from the participants because it was very useful for us to see their needs. We shared them in the following meetings when deciding the next event theme. During the event, I noticed everybody was focusing on the worksheet, and they were sharing a lot of information. Some of them were taking notes on the worksheet during the discussion, which can both help them remember things later and allows them to look back on their notes. If I could have had more time for this discussion and let the older students into the cycle of discussion, the event participants may have been able to have a more effective conversation with their older peers.

The third event was on how to study effectively while living in Japan. I decided upon this topic because developing study skills inside and outside the class is crucial to help students to succeed in studying abroad. In addition, I hoped the theme would also help students who will not be able to join a long-term study-abroad program to consider possible options that they can try in their language learning while living in Japan. For this event, I invited three older students who have experienced interesting ways to learn English: joining an English presentation contest, participating in volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, and effectively using the SALC as well as working as a peer advisor, a student staff position. During the workshop, the participants decided on one or two goals that they could try to achieve for their English learning over the Christmas break. We encouraged them to display their goals somewhere they could see them every day. It was a precious time for us to share our experiences and think about what we needed to do during the winter break. About 10 people participated in this event, so we could make small groups for discussions between underclassmen and upperclassmen.

Reflection from the administrative staff member (Hayashi)

I noticed Shibata’s growth after the first and second events. Imamura and I supported him in thinking of the event name and how he can advertise it in our first meeting, but after the first event, he was able to think of the next event title by himself and offered many ideas for the events. This may be because he had more confidence in holding an event in the SALC, but in any case, I felt I did not have to help him too much.

While supporting other learners’ events aside from the study-abroad events, I have recognized when the effective time to intervene is. I like helping students with their project; on the other hand, I often felt my intervention might often prevent them from taking the opportunity to grow. Thus, while I have tried to support event organizers and their growth, I have also made it a point to not interfere with their projects through direct intervention. For example, Shibata did not need much support from Imamura and me, but I actively talked to him in order to get updates about his event plans related to the administrative work. Another student was skilled at planning events, but that student was not good at involving other people. Therefore, I tried to ask the student to involve other students several times. I always discover the different personalities and skills students have and try to support what they need specifically. This held true for the study-abroad events, too.

Reflection from the LA (Imamura)

It was my first time to be in charge of a learner-led event as a member of the learning community team, and I was a bit worried about our first meeting. This insecurity was because I was not sure about the procedure for accepting learner’s events or for supporting them as an LA. My initial feeling, however, was swept away while listening to Shibata’s experiences studying overseas and passionate ideas for hosting a study-abroad event. After listening to his stories, I thought that if we held a series of regular study-abroad events, upperclassmen that had studied abroad and underclassmen that are thinking of studying abroad can build an ongoing relationship. As mentioned earlier, learner’s events are normally held once; thus, I wanted to see how monthly events would have an impact on learners as well as the SALC.

While observing the study-abroad events, I noticed that many participants had joined each successive event. It seems what Shibata and I hoped for, which was building a continuous relationship between older students who had studied abroad and inexperienced ones, came true. In addition, I felt that his and the upperclassmen’ presence motivated a number of participants to join the events. For instance, they wrote feedback such as, “I want to be like the older students (who had studied abroad)” and “Thanks to the event, I got high motivation.” Based on my observations, it can be said that regular events helped event participants build an ongoing relationship with their peers as well as positively affecting their motivation.

After the Study-Abroad Events

In this section, we reflect and consider elements that might help us hold a successful continuation of events: importance of needs analysis, regular meetings with the event organizer and SALC practitioners, communication skills and motivations of all the people who were involved in the events, and leadership skills.

Perspective from the event organizer (Shibata)

In order to make the event sustainable, organizers need to collect feedback in order to learn about what support the event participants need, and to assemble friends who will help when needed. The post-event questionnaire from participants is important to glean information about how valuable the event was.  In my case, I wanted to hold multiple events related to studying abroad, so I asked what kind of problems younger students have or what kind of events they want to participate in. In order to hold the event with someone else, we need to make sure that everybody has the same view about the event. Therefore, Imamura, Hayashi, and I had a meeting once a week. Also, in terms of gathering upperclassmen, I invited students who had studied abroad in various countries like the US, Europe, and Australia. By doing this, participants will be able to adopt a variety of ideas about studying abroad, and this will help them in planning for studying abroad.

Perspective from the administrative staff member (Hayashi)

I believe that in addition to the event organizer, the upperclassmen with experience studying abroad as presenters and the participants played a crucial role making the events sustainable––particularly on their motivation and communication skills. Shibata had a specific vision of the study-abroad events from the first meeting. He shared his vision with Imamura and me, and involved the other students in the study-abroad events. Shibata talked to the participants and listened to what they wanted to know and their concerns in the first study-abroad event. He reflected on this first event and the feedback from the participants, upperclassmen, Imamura, and myself when planning for the next event. The upperclassmen also communicated with attendees actively, and they shared their ideas with Shibata. I believe the willingness to listen to others is an important communication skill. It seems that participants’ motivation and passion also helped the event organizer to continue holding the study-abroad events. That is why I thought that the motivation and the communication skills of the organizers, presenters, and participants were important in making the study-abroad events sustainable.

 Perspective from the LA (Imamura)

While supporting Shibata for the study-abroad events, I saw that not only him but also the other students who helped him during the events had great leadership skills that could make the events successful. Fujishin (2007) defines leadership as “the process of influencing the task and social dimensions of a group to help it reach its goal” (p. 122). He also emphasizes that “all group members can share leadership” (p. 123). In the events, both Shibata and other upperclassmen shared the same aim of wanting to help underclassmen to succeed in studying abroad in the future. I believe that their leadership skills made the events grow every time and thus made them sustainable. In addition, participating in the study-abroad events encouraged some upperclassmen to hold a new event on Scandinavian culture, Let’s have FIKA. It was a very interesting product of chance that one Learner’s Event influenced other students to organize a new event.

Conclusion

This paper introduced one of the learner-led events in our LLS. There can be many ways to make a learner-led event sustainable depending on events, event organizers, the participants. This case study of our learner-led events on studying abroad showed the effectivenesses of analyzing the needs of the participants and sharing the feedback with the event organizer and LLS practitioners while developing the event. Moreover, in addition to the event organizer’s motivation and leadership skills, the participants’ motivation is also crucial to make the study-abroad events sustainable.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank to Kazuki Fujii, Yuka Kawashima, Shotaro Ogawa, Risa Otsuka, Hikari Shobu, Yusei Takahashi, and Sayaka Yano for your massive support to make the study-abroad events fantastic and sustainable. We also appreciate Isra Wongsarnpigoon for proofreading our paper and providing insightful feedback.

Notes on contributors

Mizuki Shibata is an undergraduate student in English Department at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan. He studied sports management at Florida International University in 2018-2019. He organized a series of learner-led events, “Study Abroad Prep #1, 2, and 3”, in the Self-Access Learning Center in the 2019-20 academic year.

Chihiro Hayashi is working as an administrative staff member in the Self-Access Learning Center for the English Language Support Section on behalf of the Office of Faculty Affairs at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan, where she has also worked in the Center for Foreign Language Proficiency and Student Affairs. She is currently working as a member of the Learning Community team.

Yuri Imamura is a learning advisor in the Self-Access Learning Center at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan. She completed her MA in TEFL at the University of Birmingham, UK. Her research interests are learner motivation, translanguaging in language learning, and language learning spaces.

References

Fujishin, R. (2007). Creating effective groups: The art of small group communication. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Hughes, L. S., Krug, N. P., & Vye, S. (2011). The growth of an out-of-class learning community through autonomous socialization at a self-access center. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 2(4), 281-291.

Kanai, H., & Imamura, Y. (2019). Why do students keep joining Study Buddies? A case study of a learner-led learning community in the SALC. Independence, 75, 31-34.

Murray, G., & Fujishima, N. (2013). Social language learning spaces: Affordances in a community of learners. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 36(1), 141-157.

Mynard, J. (2019). Perspectives on self-access in Japan: Are we simply catching up with the rest of the world? Mélanges Crapel: Revue en didactique des langues et sociolinguistique, 40(1), 14-27.

SALC Brochure. (2019). Communities and Events. Kanda University of International Studies, Self-Access Learning Center.

[Appendices]

6 thoughts on “Reflection on Learner-Led Study Abroad Events in a SAC from Three Perspectives: A Learner, an Administrative Staff Member, and an Advisor”

  1. It was great to see how you captured the collaboration among people in different roles and their thought processes in your article. I found it particularly refreshing that you included Chihiro’s perspective as an administrative staff member. Staff are so important to many learning spaces but not so often included in discussions of what happens within them. I hope to see more articles like this that highlight the many factors that are part of organizing social activities.

    Much of this article was very relatable to me as an advisor in a self-access center. One point that stood out to me was Chihiro’s reflections on the challenge of deciding how much to help students and how much to step back and allow them try things on their own. She added that this balance can depend a lot of individual student personalities and skill sets, something I have found to be true as well. This is always tricky for me when working with students who are planning activities. Having student organizers reflect on their events like Mizuki did is something we had been hoping to make a bigger part of the planning process in our center. This article served as a helpful reminder for me to develop a better way of collecting participant feedback (something we have not been doing enough of) in order to both serve them better and help student organizers as well as advisors and administrative staff grow through the experience. It was clear from all of your reflections how beneficial this was for the study abroad events so it’s great encouragement for me to get this started.

    Your article also brought a few questions to mind. I’m curious about the students who joined these events. Were they mostly students with English-related majors? First year students? Did the amount of participants increase? Yuri mentioned that many of the same participants joined each event. Did these events also attract new participants?
    How much of the success of these events do you think was due to it being a series that could be improved upon each time versus a one-off event like usual? Did the reflection and feedback gathering process for these events differ from the typical ones held in your learning space?
    You noted how significant Mizuki and the other presenters’ communication skills and motivation were to this series. Do you think these skills were enhanced through this experience? Could other students develop these skills through the planning and hosting process?

    Thank you all for sharing your reflections like this. I’m looking forward to learning more about what you experienced and using some of what you discovered in our self-access center!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your article. I think student organized events are really ideal for both participating students and organizer students. Moreover, this case study was beneficial for readers as well, because universities focus on student-centered education and hope students become autonomous learners and leaders. There are not enough empirical studies done which include administrator’s’ experiences, so I think this study addresses this need.
    I think one important factor for the success in this study was the inclusion of many different views from the participants at the initial stage of the project. First, a learning adviser, Ms. Imamura, observed the needs of students regarding study abroad promotion. Then, an administrative staff, Ms. Hayashi, has observed individual students on a daily basis and was able to nominate a candidate (potential organizer) which made the event successful. I would like to highlight this collaborative work between staff and educators as well. As for the student organizer, it was a really valuable experience for him.
    One thing I might add to the article is whether or not the event organizer would have initiated this project on his own. It would be interesting to know how big a role the support of the LA and administrator played in helping to get this started. In my university in Kumamoto, Japan, I feel that students are interested in challenging new things but many of them lack the confidence to actually initiate something new in English related activities. I wonder how I could encourage those students to make the first step. I personally think it is important that educators have more connection with each student and encourage them individually. Although some students will have the initiative to start something on their own, I believe that most will need encouragement and support to get started. It would be interesting to hear what the organizers of this even think in relation to this.
    Ms. Hayashi’s reflection as an administrative staff, she stated that the difference between support and intervention. To be able to judge between those, how do you recognize when the effective time to intervene is? She talked about asking students several times and discovering individual personalities to figure it out. I completely understand but do you think is there any way that we can possibly give more specific advice for novice learning advisors or educators? This would be an interesting thing to add to the paper.
    If you would like some more information about these issues, I recommend two articles. Littlewood (1999) indicated the differences in autonomy development in East Asian learners with Western people due to the influence of the ethnocentricity, namely reactive and proactive autonomy. Nakata (2006) also argued the motivation among Japanese students.
    I think this was an interesting case study which showed how influential motivation is in order for a program to succeed. This kind of success would establish a better organization and create a better social community. Once again, I would like to thank the people involved in this case study and I appreciate their reflections from different perspectives.

    Littlewood, W. (1999). Defining and developing autonomy in East Asian contexts. Applied Linguistics, 20(1), 71-94.
    Nakata, Y. (2006). Motivation And Experience in Foreign Language Learning. Peter Lang Pub Inc.

  3. Dear Beth,

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on our reflections. First of all, we are very happy to hear that you think our reflection particularly in disseminating the administrative staff member’s voice is useful. We hope to see more articles including various SAC practitioners’ voices in the future.

    Thank you also for asking us many questions! This encouraged us to have another reflection session.

    With regard to the participant information, many of them were first-year students majoring in English. The number of participants increased with each new session as repeaters often brought newcomers. There were quite a number of new participants in the third event. We assumed that it was because the theme was not directly about study-abroad, but about ways to develop English skills while living in Japan.

    For your second main question, we think that the series of events helped us know what our participants need and we were able to discuss what we could offer for them. Regarding the one-off events, there was not an opportunity to discuss participant needs. We do not usually collect reflection and/or feedback from both event organisers and event participants for a one-off event so we cannot compare at this point. This might be an interesting topic to investigate next time.

    We believe that Mizuki and his fellow students’ motivation and communication skills were enhanced while hosting the study-abroad events. They already had high motivation and communication skills; however, by joining the events, this encouraged some of them to hold another one-off event for introducing Scandinavian culture and additionally organise a learning community.

    Best wishes,
    Chihiro and Yuri

  4. Dear Kayoko,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. As we are all working at SACs in Japan, it seems we have similar issues while supporting students to be more engaged in our learning spaces.

    First of all, we would like to apologise that we were not able to answer all of the questions you asked. Because Mizuki graduated in March this year, we have had difficulties communicating with him. However, once he replies to us, we will share his thoughts with you. Thank you for your understanding.

    As you mentioned, it is challenging for us to encourage students to take a first action for their events. In the case of the study-abroad events, we held meetings in which we brainstormed the tasks needed for Mizuki to be able to hold the study-abroad events. We then identified which tasks he could do by himself, and which tasks he needed other people to support him in. The list was quite useful for us to recognise what he can do easily and what he needs scaffoldings.

    For your question about whether or not the event organiser would have initiated this project on his own, Mizuki was already interested in building an ongoing relationship between upperclassmen and underclassmen on study-abroad. Thus, when Chihiro approached him whether he was interested in hosting a study-abroad event or not, he shared many ideas with her. Many students do not know what they can do in our SAC; hence, listening to what they want to do and showing opportunities or possibilities that students can try in order to make their ideas happen are important to our roles as SAC practitioners.

    With regard to your question to Chihiro, please read her comment below.
    I am not sure the exact answer; yet, I always carefully observe students’ facial expressions in order to sense when would be the best time to intervene. In essence, all of these things will come naturally from taking an interest in students, getting to know them, and listening and paying attention earnestly. When I do this, I can identify ways to help them find opportunities to do the things they have wanted to do (but were unsure of how to make happen).

    We also totally agree that we need to have more connection with our students. While working at our SAC, we feel that the number of students we interact with is quite limited. In your SAC, how do you normally try to connect with your students?

    All the best,
    Chihiro and Yuri

  5. It’s wonderful to read about students working collaboratively with administrative staff and faculty. Organizing events such as the study abroad event as described in this paper are necessary to aid students in their decision and to help promote programs for the university. Self-access learning centers are the perfect place for student groups to share, discuss, and facilitate activities with their classmates. It has been one of my great pleasures working with students in the SALC at my institution. The effort put forth by the authors is a testament to their motivation to support study-abroad and the institutional support they receive.

    In preparation for the events, I think the questions asked by Mizuki were vital. I’ve participated in information sessions that focused on cursory information, not focusing on what students might be interested to learn. Student-to-student led meetings and events can be a more productive use of time and beneficial to the participants. Another element that I like was asking “why” questions. Nudging the students to think deeper about their motivation to do something can have a significant effect, not only in the affirmative of studying abroad but also realizing that it might not be for them.

    As a faculty advisor to student staff, I understand Yuri’s initial concern about having a meeting with student organizers. Many of the event proposals submitted by students, while they are good ideas in principle, lack the planning and organization for holding a worthwhile event. It takes several meetings and completing applications just to get the event approved. Once it’s approved, then more meetings and advertising to encourage participation are needed. However, when students are prepared and passionate about what they’re doing, their enthusiasm is infectious.

    I’m curious about the total number of participants for each event. It was noted that some students visited all three events. Is there anything from Mizuki, Chihiro, or Yuri’s view that you would do differently for the next time? I agree with Chihiro’s approach to supporting Mizuki; I wonder if there was an opportunity for the three authors to provide feedback on each other? Lastly, has there been any discussion about putting events like this online in consideration of our current situation?

    Thank you very much for co-authoring this paper. I learned a lot about the collaboration students enjoy with administrative staff and faculty. It has encouraged me to play a more active role in promoting the possible events students can lead in our SALC.

  6. Dear George,

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on our paper.
    Your insightful comments gave us another reflection opportunity. Because we have had difficulties communicating with Mizuki under the current situation, our reply and reflection on your questions were between Chihiro and me. Thank you for your understanding.

    As you mentioned, student-to-student meetings are very powerful to inspire other fellow students. As for supporting student-led events, it seems that your university requires more procedures in accepting event proposals and planning for the events than our university. In my experience, when students require many tasks to do for their events, some of them tend to lose their motivation to host their events. How do you normally support your learners’ motivation to succeed in their events?

    The following are our answers to your questions.

    1) Is there anything from Mizuki, Chihiro, or Yuri’s view that you would do differently for the next time?
    Chihiro: I would like to talk to event organisers more about their passions for holding their events and elicit their interests rather than just focusing on administrative tasks. It might be similar to what an LA normally does.
    Yuri: I would like to collaborate more with other faculty members (such as the International Affairs) who are helping students with study-abroad preparation. Mizuki shared his event information with them; yet, it would be interesting if we could have some input sessions to share what support we have been doing and think of what we could do together to support our students.

    2) Was there an opportunity for the three authors to provide feedback on each other?
    Interesting question. We had group reflections on what we did well and what we would like to improve next. Chihiro and I also gave Mizuki some feedback on what we noticed while observing the events; yet, we did not receive feedback from him individually. In informal meetings, Chihiro and I shared what was effective or helpful about our support. One of the reasons why we did not explicitly provide feedback to each other might be that we tended to identify ourselves as a group rather than individuals. Hence, we might not provide feedback to each other individually. If we support a student-led event again, we would like to include feedback to each other.

    3) Has there been any discussion about putting events like this online in consideration of our current situation?
    Yes. A group of students has started holding a monthly online event to help other students with various learning skills since June. We also have had online social gatherings (e.g. tea parties) organised by the LAs and online learning communities.

    Thank you again for your feedback.

    Best wishes,
    Yuri and Chihiro

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