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February 9, 2023

10 participants, 10 ways of struggles: The 5th batch's first challenge in Japan - 8-months Japanese Intensive course in Hiroshima -

Most of the JISR participants aim to get a job in Japan after completing the Program because the severe situation does not allow them to go back to their home country Syria. Japanese language is one of the keys to success in their job hunting. They eagerly learn Japanese in order to understand the cultural differences and build good relationships with Japanese people eventually to be a "jisr" in Arabic, meaning "bridge", between Syria and Japan in the future.

On 29th of July 2022, 10 participants of 5th batch received their certificates from the Morito Institute of Global Higher Education of Hiroshima University. They have been taking the 8 months Japanese Intensive Course upon their arrival in Japan and all of them were able to complete the program.

Here're their stories of the 8 months in Hiroshima.

Being immersed in Japanese language

The curriculum of the Course consists of five-days classes (three 90-minute sessions) on weekdays and tutoring sessions with Japanese students twice a week. Starting with mastering Hiragana and Katakana, they gradually learned Kanji as well. It was a fresh experience for the participants as they are very different from the Arabic alphabet which is their mother tongue. Some acquired Kanji in their unique ways, for example, by putting many kanji-written sticky notes on the wall of the room, or by imagining how the Kanji is formed from the pictures of its origin. Mr. Assaf, who has been studying Japanese on his own for several years before coming to Japan, is interested in Japanese unique onomatopoeia, and "zukazuka" which means barging into something without refraining is his favorite recently.

According to the participants, classes in Arabic countries are often 50 minutes-long per session, therefore, it was not easy for them to focus for 90 minutes in each class. Also, they struggled physically during Ramadan[1] as many of them are Muslim.

However, the course was very challenging not only for the participants but also for the Japanese teachers as it aimed to reach the N3 level of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test in 8 months only. The teachers taught them tenaciously as they had many discussions and adjustments about the textbooks to use, the speed of the classes, and contents of the classes through continuous communication with participants in order to manage the class with 10 participants who has different level of understandings and motivations.

After completing the Japanese language training, a participant looked back and said, "One teacher gave us instruction and explained in English when it was necessary, the others taught us with good humor, and gave clear and detailed explanations to any kind of questions. I am very thankful for their guidance."

In the tutoring sessions, students from Hiroshima University provided one-on-one session with each participant and helped them with daily conversation, reading news articles, etc. upon their requests. Some tutors who attended the completion ceremony and the final presentation in the end of July were amazed at their growth over 8 months.

PhotoThe memorable classroom where the participants studied

PhotoThe presentation material which is filled with their 8 months experience in Hiroshima.


  • [1] For example, a Kanji [山] means mountain and originated from the shape of mountain.

Even enjoy culture shocks

The life in Japan was very new and challenging for the participants. Still, they always kept their smartphones in their hands wherever they went in order to search meanings of words and how to get to the destination until they got used to. This is how they actively discovered many towns and different cultures.

One of the participants shared his story at a shop when he looked for Halal food. He asked a shop staff about Halal food but unfortunately the staff didn't know about it. Then 2 other Japanese staffs joined to help him but eventually none of them were familiar with it. In the end, the participant couldn't get what he looked for in the shop, however, he was happy to find the Japanese spirit of cooperation and kindness.

They were sometimes surprised by the Japanese-styled rules and cultures. One day in the street, they learned that it is not allowed to park bicycles anywhere on the streets, but they should be parked in the designated parking areas. The other day, they were surprised about the accuracy of the public transportation. In the supermarket, one of participants came to make a question about excessive plastic packaging of foods and he searched the history of it on the internet. Then he found a past case which triggered over-packaging in Japan. They sometimes had a short journey to Kure and Onomichi and enjoyed the nature so that they could restore their energy.

Also, they were lucky to have a chance to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was meaningful for them to think about "peace" from the Japanese experiences, whose home country has not seen the end of the conflict yet.

10 ways of achievements

After they successfully completed the tough and pressured 8-months course, with warm supports from various people, 10 participants attended the closing ceremony to show their achievements.

At the ceremony, each participant gave a 10-minute presentation in Japanese on a theme of their choices. The topics were full of variety, for example, a discussion of excessive plastic packaging, reasons of difficulty of leaning Japanese language, and the introduction of beautiful Syrian history and culture. There was so much to learn for the Japanese attendances from their unique, thoughtful, and sometimes comical presentations.

Towards the end of the presentation, there was a moment when the atmosphere of the venue changed slightly. It was when a participant who came to Japan with her family gave the presentation. She shared her story in great Japanese that she never gave up her dream since her childhood even after she left Syria due to the conflict and successfully grabbed the chance to participate in the JISR program. When she showed the appreciation to the people around her, especially to her family who were with her all the time, she choked up with tears. This unexpectedly brought the audience to tears...

Their experiences, that they fled their home country and were forced to live in the sever situation are beyond our wildest imagination. Their presentation made the audience to aware that the hardships and frustrations that only they know have given them the strength to live out their lives.

PhotoGiving the final presentation with good confidence.

PhotoQ&A session in Japanese makes them nervous.

Step forward - just be yourself

After all presentations, the Japanese teachers gave the participants warm well-wishing words. As one of the teachers expressed that "I am so happy to see all of you again today without missing a single person", it was great achievement that everyone accomplished the intensive course. However, this goal means a departure from Hiroshima and time to say goodbye to the teachers. The teachers may have been like mothers to the participants as they cared, taught, guided them. The other teacher said that they are sad as there were no more classes with them, but they were all looking forward to seeing the participants sometimes in the future. The participants sincerely accepted the teachers' words with a mixture of smiles and sadness on their faces.

After the intensive course, the participants start their Master's course in each different university around Japan. Some of them looked sad but fortunately they have many people who send cheers to them from Hiroshima. One of the participants told us, "I want to make the most of my Japanese skills and professional skills. Above all, I want to do what I love after graduating JISR program!" with smile.

Language is a tool of communication. However, the Japanese intensive course created new opportunities for both of participants and Japanese people around them of exchanging and learning through the interaction beyond mere communication.

Despite the ongoing difficulties in their home country Syria, each participant lives positively in Japan. The Japanese teachers told them "I believe that learning Japanese will be your treasure in your life" and "It all starts from here. Wishing your hard work and joy you have had so far blights your life more!". With having these passion and expectation, 10 new challenges begin from their hometown in Japan, Hiroshima!

PhotoThe teachers gave the participants well-wishing words.

PhotoSmiling with the certificate in hand


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