Horikawa high school visit – 堀川高校の訪問

Hi! It’s Alice, the CIR at Kyoto Prefectural International Center.
Today I would like to write about a school visit I did in Horikawa Senior High School last  December.


Horikawa Senior High School is really committed to raise awareness about other cultures and human right problems among their students. Indeed, all the first-year students have to study abroad for a few weeks in March and stay with a host family to increase their language skills and broaden their horizons. In order to prepare the students for this trip, I was asked to speak about my country and how French people view Japan and the Japanese.




This visit was divided into 2 different kinds of events. First, I visited the school on December 14th with 3 other CIRs: Kyoto Prefectural Office’s CIR Mark from Scotland, Kameoka’s CIR Margaret from America and Kyotanabe’s CIR Polly from England. There were also 2 exchange students with us, Jorge from the Philippines and Windu from Indonesia. I thought it would be interesting to have speakers from as many countries as possible so that students understand that we are not the same “foreigners” but French, American, Indonesian etc, each with its own differences. Everybody was really eager to participate when I spoke with them about this event.




First, the students split into groups and interviewed us individually about our countries, our lives, our interest in Japan and why we choose to come live here. They also wanted to check if the image they had of each country was correct or not and what we thought about it. For example, French people are usually thought as elegant and stylish… it might be true when seeing the Haute Couture shows but not on an everyday basis! Actually Japanese youth are more fashionable than French ones.


Mark and I came back for the 2nd visit on December 21st, to speak in front of all the first-year students, which is to say almost 250 people!
Students first presented their conclusions and feelings about what they had learned during the interviews the week before. I was really surprised to hear that Japanese summer feels hotter than the Philippines, or that Japanese people walk and live too fast for Indonesian people. Indeed, in France, we do not get to know a lot about South East Asia in our education and I learned a lot myself from these presentations.


Explaining about the CIR job国際交流員の仕事について説明する

Explaining about the CIR job

Then, it was time for Mark and I to climb on the stage under a warm of applause (which felt good but was kind of intimidating) to be interviewed again “live”. They asked us to speak about Christmas celebrations in France and Scotland, what were the famous places and food, what did we like about Kyoto etc. Then came the tricky questions such as “what makes you French / Scottish?” I would never have been able to answer should I have stayed in my country all my life, but living abroad really made me realize who I am, what it does mean to be French and rediscover my own culture and habits as well. In this way, I really hope you will get the chance to live one year or more in another country and culture, for it is a life-changing experience.


Mark explains about his jobマークが仕事について説明する

Mark explains about his job

Quickly speaking, French people like to take their time, enjoy their meals, put work and their private life (family and friends) on the same level of priority, complain a lot, go on strike and holidays and put all their heart in doing what they like. C’est la vie! Of course there is more much to that, but it would take more than a blog article to speak about it.


After the interviews, Mark and I gave a small presentation about our countries, how Scotland differs from the UK and how Bordeaux and the South of France are not like Paris. We then introduced our reasons for wanting to work as a CIR in Japan, mainly because we wanted to put into practice what we learned in college (languages, multicultural communication and marketing) and challenge ourselves. To end, we spoke about gender equality in Japan and how the gap is still wide, differences at the workplace and in working practices, and how foreigners are viewed in Japan. If Japanese are the best when it comes to help and welcome us, they should treat us less as guests and “foreigners” but more as “French” and “Scottish” and as citizens living in Japan just as they do.

Answering questions質問に答える

Answering questions


After the presentation, we had a smaller gathering with the students who wished to participate, and were able to talk more casually with them about life in Scotland and France, our feelings about living in Kyoto, and give them advice on how best to communicate with their host families during their oversea internship to come. Japanese people usually tend to think of themselves as really bad at English and prefer not to talk at all rather than try and make mistakes. However, even with the worst pronunciations and mistakes, people will really appreciate if you make the effort to speak their language especially in their own country, and will help you as best as they can to improve. The best way to learn is by making mistakes!


It was my first visit to a Japanese high school, and I’m really glad I got this opportunity to exchange with the students, introduce new things about France and maybe change how they view foreign countries and cultures. I hope I will have more opportunities like this in the future!


Receiving flowers was such a nice surprise!花をいただいて、びっくりしました!

Receiving flowers was such a nice surprise!

Mark’s comment マークの感想

On the 21st December, myself and Alice gave a presentation to the students of Horikawa High School, on various topics such as internationalisation, social issues, and what it’s like living and working as a CIR in Japan. As it was my first school visit, I was quite nervous, but was glad that the students all seemed to learn something afterwards, especially about my home country. The planning that went into the whole day was very well organised by two of the students themselves, and our session the week before on the 14th allowed the students to interview some of the other participants, and prepare presentations on what they learnt, with some very interesting insight!
All in all, a great opportunity to meet some excellent students, and let them know a little more about ourselves, our jobs, and our cultures, as well as show off my traditional Scottish kilt to the people of Kyoto!




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