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Report of MIFA activities; my experience from 2009-2010

By; Syed Ali Hyder ZAIDI

Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo Japan

After to Japan in Oct. 2008, I felt it was a very good decision for me. It was a new culture for me so, hence I was very excited to learn as many new things and gain many different experiences, as I can during my time in Japan.

I am doing a PhD in Bioinformatics/Genetics at Tokyo medical and Dental University. My area of focus is diabetes disease. The university is a top-ranked educational institution with world class facilities.

Of course, I am very grateful to be associated with this institution and as a Japanese Government funded student, I offer thanks to the private foundations and the Japanese government for assisting both my studies and cultural understanding. 

Therefore, I am thankful to both JASSO and the Nakajima Foundation for helping maintain such organizations like MIFA, which provide foreign students like me an excellent and first hand opportunity to interact with Japanese people and gain deep insight into Japanese culture. I also have great respect for the MIFA volunteers, both young and old, who take their valuable time out to assist us as foreign students whenever events are planned

I find the programs conducted by MIFA very useful and interesting on two [2] fronts. The events organized as visits to other places and the programs held at MIFA offices, to promote interaction between foreigners and Japanese people, are both excellent activities. I will give my impressions about both aspects in the paragraphs below.

I first had the chance to join the excellently organized trip to Kamakura by MIFA. It was such a pleasant experience that afterwards, I made every effort to join all other activities as well. I will mention a few here although all events were excellently done; For example, the visit to Sumo-Kaikan in Ryogoku/Edo Museum, the Asakusa-Sumidagawa-Rikugaen trip, Hamarikyu garden outing, visit to Shinto shrine in Jugaoka with Yugata wear, the MIFA home visit program, and the cooking programs are just a few events which I managed to enjoy at this time

Importantly, the deep planning and organization at MIFA, along with the thoughtfulness with regards to cultural exposure is something for which I wish to give congratulations to MIFA. Each event is not only a chance to enjoy an outing but also an educational opportunity. Always, there is written material provided which is a valuable resource for independent reading for the internet. 

The other important program which I particularly liked was the presentations program organized at MIFA. This is a chance for foreign students to communicate their own culture to Japanese audience and also give their own impressions about Japanese culture to the audience members.

I made my presentation in July and infact did two presentations on the same day. In one, I spoke about the positive aspects of Japanese society which I liked and also talked about the food culture of Japan which I have come to appreciate greatly.

I found the activity an excellent way for building face-to-face links with other Japanese people. Hence, I decided to continue helping MIFA as a volunteer to organize atleast 3 [three] other presentations last year, in 2010. Infact, I will continue to help MIFA organize presentations in 2011.

I wish to mention briefly, though that making these presentations was an opportunity for me in other areas. Although, my Japanese still requires improvement but it gave me the confidence to speak in front of a large gathering of Japanese people.

Because, people in my university managed to hear about the details of these presentations, I was later on given an opportunity to visit the city of Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture and share my views on similar issues.

Moreover, this also gave me direct opportunity to interact with members of JICA [Japan International Co-operation Agency], who also wish to have interaction with foreign students so that their own members can also gain insight into foreign cultures.

In the end, I wish to state that what was only an opportunity to make a presentation, then evolved into something much bigger and widespread in scope.

These days, there is a global recession and funding planning is necessary. Naturally, this is very important but with careful planning, inexpensive activities can continue to be developed at MIFA which will help foreign students develop in 3 [three] areas.

a.     Insight of Japanese culture

b.     Interest in Japanese history

c.     Understanding of Japanese language

Many universities can try to teach Japanese language, but unless exposure to culture and history is also not available, the final outcome is not optimised. In this regard, I think it will not be an exaggeration to say that MIFA is a unique organization, not only in Tokyo but all of Japan because of the large numbers of foreign students in major universities of located in Meguro-ku.

I hope many students will continue to benefit from these activities at MIFA, in the future. I also wish MIFA every success in developing bridges of understanding between foreign students and Japanese people.

I wish to end, by stating that although I have highlighted only the aspects of the student related activities of MIFA, I am equally aware that the organization is equally active for non-student foreigners as well. Because of this comprehensive reach of MIFA, I think the organization has tremendous value. For the non-students, I particularly recommend the Japanese language conversation practice program. This is due to the fact that many foreigners do not have access to academic facilities of language training in universities. It is therefore, vital that their language skills are sustained through organizations like MIFA

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