Tokyo Tech is home to over 1,200 international students from over 70 different countries, creating a rich and diverse mix of cultures for everyone to experience and enjoy. The Tokyo Tech International Students Association (TISA) is an organization dedicated to connecting all international students and working to enhance this multicultural experience at Tokyo Tech.
TISA was created during round table meetings between Tokyo Tech staff and representatives from the international student community. The association was officially launched on October 5, 2007 under the guidance of Associate Professor Yuriko Sato from the Department of Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering to unite and support international students, and to coordinate cross-cultural activities.
As a whole, TISA serves as the student union for all international students at Tokyo Tech. While students from certain countries such as Indonesia and Thailand have their own support groups, TISA integrates the interests of all those groups and of students who are not represented by country-specific associations. Furthermore, TISA incorporates into their activities Japanese students who are interested in interacting with and supporting international students. Over the last nine years, over 300 international and Japanese students have served as staff members and volunteers at the association.
One of TISA's most important roles is helping to create a supportive environment for international students. From the moment these students leave their home countries, the association is focused on ensuring that they enjoy their journey through Japan and Tokyo Tech. Making use of their own experiences, senior students at TISA help newcomers to adjust to their new lives. TISA staff members also work closely with Tokyo Tech's administration to effectively communicate the needs of international students to the Institute.
Since its establishment, TISA has held regular meetings with Tokyo Tech staff members and student groups to discuss the welfare of international students. These include round table meetings, meetings with faculty advisors from the International Student Center, and most recently, the Weekly TITech Student Forum (WTSF).
WTSF is currently one of TISA's core activities. Its aim is to help students improve their lives on campus and to enhance communication between students and staff. With the full support of Vice President for Education Tetsuya Mizumoto, each forum allows students to discuss their issues directly with relevant divisions and personnel at the Institute. "The Weekly TITech Student Forum provides us with good opportunities to listen to student voices and give answers to questions. I believe the forum is an effective way to improve students' lives as well as university administration," Mizumoto says. Past forums have involved representatives from the Student Support Division, Student Guidance Room, and International Student Exchange Division in discussions on scholarships, safety and well-being on campus, academic well-being and harassment, dormitories and housing, and a variety of other topics. The results of these discussions can always be referred to again on the association's website to ensure that everyone is aware of the progress being made.
TISA is a great way for international students to integrate into the Tokyo Tech community. There are many activities that welcome new international students soon after their arrival to help alleviate the uncertainty and confusion associated with living in a foreign country. In the beginning of the first and third quarters, TISA members introduce relevant activities and services to newcomers during the new international student orientation session. Additionally, at a later date in each quarter, TISA assists in organizing the International Welcome Party where newcomers can meet other new students, current students, staff, and alumni. These events feature performances, food, prizes, and activities originating from many different cultures. Past International Welcome Parties have been attended by over 400 participants and have featured over 40 performers.
The TISA community also extends to the digital world. Members can connect to the association's Facebook group and page, Twitter account, and forum on the TISA website. These media enable members to constantly stay connected to the community, their compatriots, and others with similar interests even when they are not on campus.
The cultural identity of each international student is the foundation of the diversity at Tokyo Tech, and it must be protected. To this end, TISA organizes "Let's Go Global: Natives," a weekly activity that is held at lunchtime in the HUB-International Communication Space (HUB-ICS). Every week, an international student becomes an ambassador of their country and reconnects to their culture by giving a presentation about life in their homeland.
In addition to allowing international students to connect to their own cultures, "Let's Go Global: Natives" also promotes the sharing of cultures in the most authentic way ― the native way. The audience members at these events learn about different nations through the eyes and experiences of natives of each country. This promotes cross-cultural intelligence and understanding.
Other venues for sharing culture are the cultural exchange events facilitated by TISA in the Ookayama area. Since 2010, TISA has been collaborating with the Shimizukubo Elementary School in Ookayama to expose younger children to new cultures through visits to the school by Tokyo Tech's international students. And over the last three years, TISA has hosted English Cafe at the Ookayama Sakura Festival, organized by the Ookayama-Kitaguchi Shotengai Promotion Association, and the Tokyo Tech Festival. In each of these events, international students share stories and games from their own countries with children from the Meguro City and Ota City communities.
The majority of the members in the wider Tokyo Tech community are Japanese, and TISA also has Japanese members who are interested in international activities. Most activities are open to all students, and several are specifically aimed at promoting interaction between Japanese and international students. In 2015 and 2016, TISA's Japanese Exchange Committee partnered with three clubs at Tokyo Tech to introduce their activities to international students. Because most extracurricular activities are conducted in Japanese, TISA helps international students who can't understand the language to participate while also helping the partnering clubs to reach out to international students. This project has so far involved the Tennis, Aikido, and Sepak Takraw Clubs, and has been very successful. The association will continue to work towards connecting Tokyo Tech's international students with the wide variety of extracurricular activities available at the Institute.
TISA events allow students to freely connect, make new friendships, and enjoy their lives at Tokyo Tech. These activities promote interaction through performance in the form of the Welcome party, interaction through food at the BBQ, Beach Picnic, and Bento Party, interaction through culture with the Secret Santa and Let's Go Global: Natives activities, and interaction through games such as the International Sports Festival.
The International Sports Festival, a day dedicated to sports, is one of the oldest and largest events organized by TISA. Throughout the day, members of the Tokyo Tech community compete against each other for prizes in various physical activities. Over the years, the number of competitors has grown to over 250 students participating in soccer, basketball, table tennis, badminton, and E-sports.
Sara Ayman Metwalli from Egypt
2nd-year master's student, Communication and Computer Engineering
What does TISA mean to me? When I first came to Tokyo, I didn't know anything or anyone, I was completely lost! But from the first day on campus, TISA was my guidance through my life here, with continued support, helpful advice, and a friendly community. The association gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people whom I wouldn't have met any other way, amazing people who are now some of my closest friends! For me, TISA is my family in Tokyo Tech, it's where I go when I need help, support, or just a friendly ear....
Kinanti Larasati from Indonesia
2nd-year master's student, Material Science and Engineering
TISA has a lot of great events every year which help to connect people, especially international students. I love coming to TISA's events because they help me to meet new friends from all over the world. I would definitely recommend international students to come to TISA's events.
Published: December 2016