A generous donation from the Nissan Foundation is bringing big benefits to Japanese language enthusiasts from AUT and beyond.
AUT’s Japanese friendship and culture club Ocha no Jikan (Japanese Tea Time), is a weekly meet-up group that builds cultural understanding, language and leadership skills, not to mention a healthy dose of camaraderie.
Thanks to Nissan’s support, the student-led organisation has gone from strength to strength, growing from ten to more than 60, and giving members an ideal platform to supercharge vital ‘C skills’ such as communication, collaboration and critical thinking.
“Ocha no Jikan is so amazing on so many different fronts,” says AUT Senior Lecturer Culture and Society, Dallas Nesbitt.
“It’s educating students on a cultural front, giving students the opportunity to build casual Japanese language skills as opposed to the formal language skills they learn in class, and helping them develop invaluable friendships. Members learn diversity, inclusiveness, leadership skills and they get volunteering hours.”
AUT places great value on maximising opportunities for students to develop the crucial ‘C skills’ they need to succeed in any field, and clubs like Ocha no Jikan are an integral part of this focus.
“Ocha no Jikan just answers all of those things that cannot easily be supplied by the classroom because we only have a few hours each week and a lot to get through. It helps inspire a passion for the language, and you really can’t master a second language without passion.”
The club was first launched in 2007 but Nesbitt believes that without Nissan’s generosity it may no longer exist.
“For the first two years, before we got this annual funding, students had to pay for all the things they needed for the club, but students don’t have a lot of money, so it was really hard going. A lot of student-led clubs die because they don’t have the sustainability. The students don’t have the time, the money or the skills to keep them going.”
Since the Nissan Foundation came on board in 2009, the club has been able to open up its weekly meetings to people outside of AUT, and start offering activities beyond the confines of their Wednesday afternoon slots.
“For the first five years students spent the money on building infrastructure – plates and cutlery, coloured pen sets, teapots, Japanese bowls and chopsticks - but over time we’ve built up our supplies, so now Nissan’s funding goes mainly on snacks and activities like bringing someone in to demonstrate a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or a sports day at the Domain, or even a trip to Rangitoto Island.”
The bonding generated through these events is priceless.
“That’s the greatest benefit of Ocha no Jikan. Our first, second and third year Japanese students all get to know each other and help each other learn. Those multi-level relationships are so valuable, because they give new students something to aspire to, and they can really see what they can achieve. The third year student leaders train new leaders from the first year Japanese courses, which means they’ve got plenty of experience when the time comes for them to choose and train new leaders themselves.”
The club also gives students the chance to speak Japanese and apply what they’ve learnt in class.
“Students really want to speak Japanese, but the opportunities can be limited. Before, they’d have to put notices up in the library seeking Japanese speakers to practice with, but now it’s all here for them through the club every single week.
“Japanese is a very challenging subject – it can be stressful and difficult. Ocha no Jikan is something fun that students can enjoy while still learning.”
And, thanks to the generosity of the Nissan Foundation and the unbridled energy of AUT’s language students, Ocha no Jikan looks set to keep building language skills and cultural bonds for many more years to come.
To find out more check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ochanojikan
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