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Cultivating intercultural exchange through gardening

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Published: December 9, 2021

The completed planters
The completed planters

On November 9, the International Exchange Support Subcommittee of the Student Success Support Section held a gardening event to promote intercultural exchange. Eighteen students gathered at the International Student Lounge on Ookayama Campus to join the event, which was intended to foster development of friendships between English-speaking students and Japanese-speaking students through the planting of tulip bulbs.

Participants were paired on the event day, a feature that seemed to work well to heighten their anticipation. As there were equal numbers of English speakers and Japanese speakers, nine pairs were formed. Each pair's first task was to make labels for their shared planter. Though some appeared reticent at first, the students gradually became more conversant, and each pair made a colorful label.

Making planter labels

Making planter labels

Specially Appointed Associate Professor Hirofumi Saito of the Center for International Education then gave a mini-lecture on plant growth, and International Student Exchange Division staff explained how to plant the bulbs.

Due to heavy rain, organizers asked participants to prepare their planters in the space under the archway of the West Building 1 entrance. Three pairs of students worked at a time, and each pair decided how much soil to put in and how to arrange the 10 bulbs they were allotted.

Tulip bulbs

Tulip bulbs

The planters are currently on display in front of West Building 1. If they grow well, the tulips will sprout in January or February and bloom in May, bringing bright colors to the campus. Having encouraged the pairs to continue communication by observing the growth of the plants until they bloom, organizers anticipate that the friendships of those who participated in the event will grow and blossom along with the tulips.

Group photo

Group photo

Comments from participating students

Kabir & Reo

Kabir & Reo

Kabir Shahriar
2nd-year doctoral student, Electrical and Electronic Engineering

For me, the Intercultural Exchange Through Gardening event was a unique opportunity to meet new people at Tokyo Tech and enjoy planting tulips together. Although I kept a small garden back in my home country, it was my first time to plant tulips, and I was surprised how large the tulip bulbs were! I was expecting tiny seeds like for marigolds! I was also very happy to meet my gardening partner, Reo, in person during the event. We got the opportunity to introduce ourselves, and it was a pleasure to discuss our experiences gardening in Bangladesh and Japan. And of course, Professor Saito's short lecture on the life cycle of tulips was really interesting. I got to learn something new about gardening through this fun activity. Really enjoyed it!

Reo Nagai
1st-year undergraduate, School of Engineering

I decided to join this event because it sounded interesting to interact with international students and do gardening. I was paired with Kabir, who is from Bangladesh. I enjoyed learning about his life in Bangladesh, what he is studying at Tokyo Tech, and so on. I was especially impressed to learn about the cultural differences between our countries. For example, Kabir told me that there are many more chances in Japanese schools to learn about nature first-hand than in Bangladeshi schools. I had observed morning glories and taken care of cherry tomatoes at my elementary school, but I've never thought about such differences between countries, and I thought the cultural difference was interesting. I also enjoyed the short lecture from Professor Saito and the gardening activity itself. I planted tulips for the first time since I was in nursery school, so I found the tulip bulbs smaller than I had remembered. Although it was only an hourlong event, I had a great time doing the activities with international students with whom I don't often have many chances to interact.

Shoko & Navin

Shoko & Navin

Shoko Memida
3rd-year undergraduate, Mechanical Engineering

This was my first time participating in an international exchange-oriented event. At first, I was worried about whether I would communicate well with the international students. However, I enjoyed interacting with my gardening partner, Navin. After exchanging greetings, Navin and I completed our planter label. Then we listened to a lecture and watched a video. It was helpful that organizers explained the features of tulips and the way to plant tulip bulbs. It was interesting to learn that tulip bulbs have flat sides and curved sides. We tried arranging five bulbs so that their flat sides were oriented in one direction and the other five bulbs faced in the opposite direction. I can't wait to see the colorful flowers!

Navin Rajapriya Inbaraj
2nd-year doctoral student, Material Science and Engineering

I had been looking for an opportunity to meet international people and enjoy fun activities together. Fortunately, this gardening event turned out to be just that. I was paired with a Japanese student, Shoko. Speaking with Shoko increased my confidence in speaking Japanese. After a fun conversation with her, I was introduced to tulip gardening. Following this introduction, Shoko and I decorated our planter label with tulip flower illustrations and planted the tulip bulbs in a zig-zag pattern. I had a lot of fun gardening with my partner, and I am looking forward to participating in other intercultural events in the future.

Contact

International Student Exchange Division

Email ryu.kor3@jim.titech.ac.jp

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