FACE Program (For International Students)

1. What is FACE?

FACE (Friendship and Cultural Exchange) is a program that brings together international students of the University of Tokyo with Japanese volunteers for "face-to-face" interaction. Any student who desires to interact with Japanese people in Japanese is eligible to participate. (Daily conversational Japanese is necessary to register.) Foreign researchers and the spouses of international students and researchers may also participate.

There are around 40,000 students from over 100 countries/region studying at the University of Tokyo. Although majority of UTokyo international students study for several years in Japan, many have few chances to have contact with Japanese people and Japanese society. Through FACE, we hope that international students can take advantage of their time here and have direct contact with, and develop deep ties with Japanese people and Japanese society.

Through one-on-one interaction between an international student and Japanese person may involve enhancing mutual understanding, getting advice, or receiving help with your life in Japan. There is also a chance to explain to Japanese people about your home country's culture, customs, or values. It can be very encouraging for you to have a friend available to talk with and ask questions about life in Japan. We hope that this will be a program that helps you with the challenge of adjusting to the different language, culture, and customs of Japan and having a productive research experience here.

2. Who are the volunteers?

The volunteers include a wide variety of people as described below. They all have a desire to interact with international students and to be helpful. Some are affiliated with the University of Tokyo, while others come from cooperating organizations from outside the university. Other participants are citizens from the general public.

1) University of Tokyo affiliates
Japanese students, Faculty and staff, Alumni

2) Citizens' groups and organizations
Mitsui Volunteer Network, A volunteer group from the Japanese language classroom in Bunkyo Ward.

3) Other citizens and students from other universities
When registering for FACE, each volunteer has received an explanation and agreed to the aims of this program. We do not accept applications from those wishing to practice English or other languages and/or to participate for religious/political/business purposes.

3. What kinds of activities can we do?

International Student Support Room will arrange your initial meeting. However, after that, the nature of interaction is open and depends on the two individuals. How often you meet, for how long, where, and what you do is up to the two of you. Deciding on the nature of your contact is really the first task of your relationship.

Pairs meet in many different places. Some always meet on campus. Some talk as they walk around town visiting places of interest or attending gatherings together. Others might meet at the volunteer's home, coffee shop, or at the student's room.

The content of conversations also varies. Some people meet for casual chats, while others meet for more serious conversations. While some meet for Japanese language practice, others discuss their interests in Japanese society or culture.

Some people get together several times a month, others only occasionally. In some cases, a long relationship involving families may occur, or a friendship that continues even after you return to your home country. Each person has their own unique situations with work, family, and various responsibilities that bring big differences in ability to meet.

The time you spend together is important for both of you. And each person bears equal responsibility for the interaction.

4. What things should I be aware of?

Since each person has different goals in meeting, depending on your partner, expectations may come to differ. We encourage you to communicate directly about your purpose and try to work things out together.

The volunteer will bear responsibility with you for the relationship and respect your wishes and listen to your opinions.

However, some students have expectations that are unrealistic or unfair. For example, it is not realistic to expect that a volunteer could do large amounts of translation into Japanese for you. You should also not expect technical advice for your field of study. Lengthy editing or revising of papers and theses is also unrealistic.

Although many volunteers are willing to help with Japanese language skills, they are not specialists in teaching Japanese language education. You should not expect intensive lessons. If that is your goal, you should consider enrolling in a university class or studying at a language school.

While some volunteers may be able to help you in various practical ways, certain kinds of support, such as financial assistance, is of course also inappropriate to expect.

There are certain basic expectations for building trusting relationships. One is keeping appointments. Please verify time changes and be punctual about appointments. The other person's time is as precious to them as your time is to you.

5. What should I do in this situation?

What should I do if my wife/ husband wants to study Japanese?
First of all, the spouses of international students and foreign researchers of the University of Tokyo can participate in some of the Japanese classes conducted by Center for Japanese language education. The application period is in April and Sep every year. There are also Japanese classes offered in many departments. Please inquire in your department.

If you live far from campus, we also recommend finding a volunteer group near your home. We can provide you some information on such volunteer groups.

You can still participate in FACE at the same time, if you wish.

It seems a lot different from the kind of interaction I had in mind.
Even if you discussed what you will do together at the beginning, after spending some time together, you may find differences in what you and your volunteer were expecting from this program. Circumstances may change, too. As you get to know each other well, you may want to do some other things together. The place to meet may change from Lounge to volunteer's home, or you might go out together for some events. Such changes are favorable, but if you feel some changes unfavorable, or want to change in some other way, the best thing to do is to talk about it frankly. As long as you can let them know that it is essential for you to continue a good relationship with them, you can solve the problem by discussion in many cases.

If you find it difficult to solve the problems by yourselves, please talk to us. We will try to work things out together.

6. How do I apply?

Please visit Go Global Center Support Desk for application(12:30-16:00, Weekdays).
It is located on 1F, Faculty of Science Bldg.No 1(East).

Internaitonal Student Support Room(Go Global Center Support Desk)
E-mail:face#ic.u-tokyo.ac.jp (Substitute # to @)

7. Some comments from participants

Student from Taiwan
 When I came to Japan I was surprised at the popularity of volunteerism. For three years I participated in home stay, Japanese language classrooms, and other activities. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of being in Japan to make Japanese friends. The advice that, if you improve Japanese you will make Japanese friends. So, I hoped that volunteers could help me. It is natural, I think, for those who come to Japan to learn about Japan. Volunteers can be very helpful in this way and in learning about society. I am impressed to how an unrelated person derives meaning in life by interacting with good intentions. In these three years of many different experiences, I learned one thing. No matter how much the person is participating with a voluntary spirit, mutual effort is required for the relations to continue. The volunteer is also an individual person. Enthusiasm is not necessarily communicated. On the other hand, we students must consider that just because volunteer works for free, we shouldn?ft think just in terms of receiving. People may say that Japanese are closed to foreigners, but many individuals and groups are trying to establish good human relations. They offer a new approach to understanding Japanese society. Therefore, we also have a responsibility to make good human relations.

Student from Thailand
My course is an international program, and classes and research are conducted completely in English, so at first I thought Japanese was not necessary. However, after a few months passed I realized it was not interesting that I couldn't understand what was being said around me. I decided to take a language class every morning, but after a half year, I was irritated that my listening and speaking ability were still poor. I wondered how I could learn Japanese. I wanted to speak with Japanese people but had no chance. In my lab, when I spoke to Japanese I could only speak slowly, so before I would finish they would complete my sentences for me, or if I said something I was always unsure if it was correct or not. Luckily, my Sempai introduced the exchange program to me, and by meeting with my Japanese volunteer and practicing conversation once a week I gradually improved my speech and talking in Japanese became interesting. Not only did I improve my language ability, but I came to understand the way of thinking of Japanese people. Words are not just words, but also are related to how we act and what we say. Also, I could resolve some confusion about Japanese culture and social expressions. Thanks to this program, my life in Japan became enjoyable!

Student from Bangladesh
Through this volunteer program and its activities, I became able to communicate with Japanese students and those from other countries. In this world of global interaction, it is increasingly important to know how other people in the world live, and think about family, society, economics, politics and geography.

Student from China
My partner is a very kind and easy-going lady. She always gives me good suggestions on how to live a happy life in Japan. We meet once a week, and talk about the different culture and customs between Japan and China. Sometimes we exchange different opinions on some specific topics. She helps me a lot for my oral Japanese. This program provides a good opportunity for us international students to improve Japanese, make Japanese friends, and learn Japanese culture, history and customs.