When you’ve got good friends you haven’t seen in a while, you better get going when you have the chance to visit. And that is just what members of our NLC executive did earlier this month when they hopped a plane to Japan.
President Todd Bondaroff, Vice President Community Relations & Institutional Strategy Jessie Drew, and Acting Vice President Student Services & Community Relations Scott Clerk travelled to Osaka and Tokyo on March 17-25 to renew some longstanding partnerships and move toward building some new ones. It was NLC’s first visit to Japan in nearly a decade.
Contrary to what the long delay between visits might suggest, the partnerships that NLC has with our Japanese counterparts can truly be called friendship—ones that have supported a flow of visiting students from Japan to Canada for more than 30 years and provided opportunities for NLC’s students to study in Japan, as well. In fact, pre-pandemic, NLC typically hosted more than 25 Japanese students annually.
So, this month’s visit was truly important to NLC’s stability and growth. Our delegation met with high-ranking representatives from three universities: From Jumonji University, they met with President Fumio Shimura and international team members Yoshie Niijima and Mitsuru Adachi; during the team’s stop at Kansai Gaidai University, they met with Board of Trustees President Eiko Tanimoto, and international team members Reiko Hiromoto and Yutaro Kusunose; and finally, at Tezukayama Gakuin University, the team met with President Kinsuke Tsuda and international team members Mari Mizote and Cory Koby.
“The university partners we have in Japan are our oldest international institutional partners. Our partnerships have been in place for over 30 years,” said Scott of the importance of the visit to Japan. “Their students coming here have had such an impact on our campuses and communities. We just wanted to make sure our partners [in Japan] knew how important they are to NLC so we can continue to have great working relationships with them to foster the flow of students from Japan to Canada, and Canada to Japan.”
The visits were very productive, with NLC signing MOUs with both Jumonji and Kansai Gaidai universities and building a solid basis for a future MOU with Tezukayama Gakuin. These agreements reactivate activity related to English as a Second Language education at NLC and study abroad opportunities in Japan. One goal is to bring these back to pre-COVID levels.
According to Todd, “Our new strategic plan discusses the space the NLC occupies in our communities and in the world. And so, in that sense, it is completely natural and even necessary for us to prioritize partnerships like the ones we’ve just built in Japan.”
He continues, “Even more than that, that same strategic plan specifically calls for accessible and flexible programming and a robust plan for increased enrolment. This visit and the relationships it solidified for NLC in Osaka and Tokyo speak directly to those goals.”
Not every moment of the trip was devoted to professional partnerships, however, as our executive team also made time to meet with former NLC students who had recently returned home to Japan. Jessie describes the moment she first saw these recent students: “We walked into the room where we were going to meet, and there were all these big smiles and one person wearing a bright pink ‘I <3 NLC’ t-shirt! I couldn’t have loved it more!” There were also visits with the Canadian embassy, with a current NLC student in the study abroad program, and even the opportunity for Jessie to connect with her “Japanese sisters”—former NLC students who had stayed in Jessie’s family’s home many years ago as part of our previous homestay program in Dawson Creek.
“We’re all about relationships,” says Jessie. “How can we make people’s lives better if we don’t know what those lives are like, if we don’t become part of them? It’s why I’m so very proud to be part of NLC and the way we are all moving forward together.”