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The international dimension - Cambridge meets Keio

Published on 11/04/23

For some years we have been fortunate to have a close relationship with the highly prestigious Keio Shonan Fujisawa Senior High School in Yokohama, Japan.

The school is attached to the world-famous Keio University and is a co-educational secondary school. They have generously funded a scholarship programme between the Stephen Perse Foundation and the Keio Shonan Fujisawa Junior & Senior High School since 2008. After several years of lockdown and pandemic uncertainty, we have been able to reinvigorate this exchange. We were very grateful that this year the Japanese school provided us with six scholarship places, as opposed to the usual four.

These places were awarded to the following students who have been attending for several years Mrs Browning’s after-school Japanese course: Caitlin, Chloe, Twig, Amélie-Grace (all from Year 11) as well as William (Year 10) and Kian (Year 12).

They hosted their partners for 14 days at the end of January 2023 and over half-term were able to visit their partners in Japan.

This exchange was not only one for improving linguistic skills, but also a chance to find out more about young people’s lives in different countries. This involved learning about shared values as well as looking at differences between the cultures.

During the visit to the UK, the Japanese scholars were treated to a full schedule of life in the UK, school lessons at Stephen Perse, excursions as a group and excursions with their host families.

We are particularly thankful to all the host families who ensured the students had a fabulous time, including Mr & Mrs Collister, who arranged a special additional visit to Trinity College Library and VIP seats at King's College Evensong. Students and teachers had the incredible opportunity to see the traditional Cambridge graduation ceremony at the Senate House.

The packed UK programme included sight-seeing around Cambridge and London, the very traditional afternoon tea, not so traditional bowling and burgers alongside many opportunities beyond.

The schedule in Japan was equally as packed, with time spent in the High School experiencing Japanese culture. There were lessons in karate, tea ceremony and calligraphy - not all at the same time! There were excursions, including to Kamakura, with its Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. Tokyo was one of the many highlights and the group enjoyed walking round the sights. There was also time for a sweet-making workshop.

There were many tears at the airport when the Stephen Perse students headed off back to the UK - a positive sign as far as exchanges go, as it was clear they had got on well with their partners. It was truly a special opportunity for these students and long-lasting friendships have been made.

Mrs Browning has started the next cohort of students with the Japanese after-school course. This is aimed at any Year 9s & Year 11s who would be interested in taking part in Keio 2024. Students from other year groups are more than welcome to attend. Thursdays 3.30pm - 5.30pm in L31

Amélie (Year 11) shares her thoughts:

“The Japan trip really was an enjoyable and formative trip. It was both hilariously chaotic while simultaneously being educational and allowed me to form connections both in Japan and England with interesting, well-rounded students. The exchange and blend of cultures was an unforgettable experience and I learned an innumerable amount of things that would simply be impossible to learn in a classroom. It provided me with a completely new perspective and an insight into the differences and similarities of our cultures and societies. One of my favourite moments was visiting Harajuku in Tokyo; it was just so different from anything I've experienced previously with its towering screens and flashing lights. Overall I’m very grateful to have been a part of this exchange.”

Caitlin (Year 11):

“Being part of this exchange programme was such a fun experience. I enjoyed both the Japanese lessons leading up to the trip and of course going to Japan as well. I was able to make so many friends, and try lots of new things that I otherwise would not have had the chance to, like taking part in a Japanese tea ceremony, or seeing lots of shrines and temples, such as Hase Temple in Kamakura. Getting to learn about Japanese culture was amazing, and the trip was so immersive - by the end I felt like I knew so much more thanks to everything that I had been able to see and do. My highlight of the trip was going to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant - it was so fun and the food was delicious. I’m really happy that I took the opportunity to be a part of the exchange programme since I feel I have gained a lot of useful skills and knowledge from it.”

Twig (Year 11):

“I absolutely loved the trip, and it was nice to go with so many people! I’ve been interested in Japan and its language for a long time now, and it was really an incredible experience. The temples and statues were awe-inspiring, and I got to eat some of my absolute favourite food. The omelette sushi at the conveyor belt sushi restaurant was incredible, as was the pork katsu and the yakisoba that my host family made! I kept a diary each day, and called my parents often, but I did start missing home near the end of the trip. My family was lovely, and the grade 1 students were so sweet! I adored the opportunity, and would absolutely go again!”

Stephen Perse Senior School Open Day – 30 September. Click here and book and your place.