2023 Activity Report

December Activity Report

December 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

We have been experiencing a lot of cold since the winter arrived last month. The winter vacation period is about to finish, but we still have a couple of weeks left to study more kanjis and radicals. I have been informed that I will be also teaching fourth semester and not only basic levels. This is personally one of my favorite levels, because the students can already recognize various types of verb conjugations. This means that they can form sentences using informal language which is certainly the type of expressions you use with your friends and family. I can totally try to speak Japanese with this group and see how much they can improve their communication skills. On the other hand, the scholar exchange office will be opened pretty soon, so I will be able to invite the new generation of students once more and offer updated information about our programs.

For this month, I tried to create some more presentations about kanjis and radicals for the students of basic levels. Unfortunately, I was having some connection problems after the electrical cables of the neighborhood got damaged by the wind this last week. I usually explain the strokes and the meaning of most of the kanjis we see during class, but since I could not share my screen in real-time I tried to explain my examples as much as possible. We went through a list of vocabulary related with sickness and hospitals. As Japanese speakers can notice, the radical sickness can be found in adjectives such as “痛い”, “痒い” and in verbs like “疲れる” and “病む”. All these words describe symptoms and sensations that might indicate an issue with our health and although this vocabulary could be considered advanced, I think it is important to encourage the students to get used to the tedious part of Japanese language as soon as possible.

November Activity Report

November 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

According to the authorities, it is possible to have one of the coldest winters that we have had in the last twenty years. Here in Mexico it is not very common to have so many cloudy days in a row, but that is exactly what is happening right now. Some of my students were very sick and could not attend my class for some days but they seem to be better now. As I already explained in previous reports, almost all students from the University of Guanajuato come from other locations the same state, so one can really notice how schools are little by little getting emptier especially this last week. In the case of our Language school, all Japanese learners are having their oral exams which last around fifteen minutes. As we were applying these oral exams, we realized that Spanish speakers use あなあ at the beginning of every sentence when addressing someone. This could sound a little bit odd for most native speakers of Japanese, so we are really trying to make them notice this issue with the language, especially at this learning stage.

Some days ago, we had the last conversation session of the semester with our Japanese volunteer Kandai. I made sure to cover some topics about time and adjectives, which is part of the final oral exam of the semester. I was deeply grateful that Kandai helped us during all these weeks and I explained to him that he is welcome to join us anytime in the future. My students usually point out that they become shy when talking to other teachers and that I should be there conducting every oral exam, but I explained that this was not going to be possible. I often tell them that the main objective of languages is communication and therefore we should break down all these barriers and try to have a more opened attitude towards others. This reminds to of all those conversations with my colleagues about the humanistic side of teaching and learning.

For this vacation period I would like to offer another kanji and radical session to the entire Japanese program. This time, I will make sure to provide easy examples for those students who just began their Japanese courses and I am also going to give them some activities in order to assess what has been explained. Last time I taught all these concepts, I realized that my participants were having a very passive role and that it would be better to have them using all this new information and put it into practice.

These were the very last two photos that I took of the Dia de los Muertos' celebration, which took place inside the tunnels of the city of Guanajuato.


October Activity Report

October 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

The cervantino festival got ended just a couple of days with incredible fireworks and the celebrations for Halloween and Día de los Muertos are still making noise among the people of Guanajuato. There is a new celebration on the streets of the city and consists basically of a very colorful parade with hundreds of people dressing as Catrines and Catrinas, who are the representation of death and impermanence in this world. This skull-like costume is now common at school and community celebrations and is more widespread across the country than ever. I am personally very glad that most of the exchange program students are able to get in contact with these kind of Mexican traditions. As I already mentioned, I like to experience culture through national food and some days ago I ate for the first time something called Cajeta de Muerto, which is made from sweet potato, guava fruit and some other spices. I hope all these exchange students are as enthusiastic about food as I am.

Fortunately, one of the exchange students who came from Osaka is now helping us with the conversation group since a couple of weeks now and I am very glad he is finally interacting with most of my students. We are now trying to reinforce the things we learnt at the beginning of the semester such as self-introduction and ordering food at restaurants using Japanese counters. Our new assistant was impressed by the abilities of some of my students to communicate and noticed that we have been making a lot of effort to memorize the exceptions. The Japanese program that we are currently using, sometimes tends to give very little amount of vocabulary per unit but the students always want to know more words and colloquial expressions. We are about to have another oral test and that’s why we were doing drills on the last content related with shopping and travel. I also made sure to tell our new assistant that he is allowed to invite other exchange program students to our reunions, so we could have more interaction between both groups. I am looking forward to keep encouraging learners to increase their communicative skills for the rest of the semester and beyond.

September Activity Report

September 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

For this month I have created some material for the students with the most important grammar explanations and vocabulary for the students of first semester. we are currently studying hours and minutes in Japanese which add a lot of exceptions to our must remember word list. I have been applying more games than ever and my students seem to like it very much. As I commented on another report, this is the very first time that I am teaching very young students. I was already used to teach students around 24 or 26 years old, but now most of them are below 18. Surprisingly, my group gets very excited when it comes to games and competences, so I decided to prize them with extra points for the exams we go through every single week. Some of them are still struggling with katakana, so I will make sure to cover the vocabulary of restaurants and food, which has a lot of good examples. I have also tried to use some of the easiest lectures from Tadoku and adapt them to my classroom activities in order to practice these new symbols.

Our conversation group has started without the Japanese students’ support, but we are hoping to get some volunteers for next week. I made sure to post some messages inside the Spanish classrooms where most foreigners attend daily classes. For the chatting sessions I am trying to focus on the vast list of Japanese counters and katakana which are by far the hardest topics of the program. Two weeks ago, I made sure to provide another session to those students who were not able to attend our last online meeting. I made sure to cover the requirements of going abroad and I also shared the main webpage and some other YouTube links with more information about the campus. I have received some mails from various students and they want to know if there is any possibility to go abroad and do their professional practices in Japan. I will try to gather some more information about their context and see what can I do for them depending on each case.

The Cervantino Festival is about and one can really notice how crowded the streets are getting. A wide variety of events and concerts will be given during the next three weeks in Guanajuato and I am very excited to assist to some of the orchestra presentations. Some of the artist who will appear on scene will be Renee Goust, Wooonta, La 33, Dives, Chie Hanawa, Ranky Tanky, La Santa Cecilia and Clare Sands to mention a few. I hope all foreign students are going to be able to enjoy a good time during the festival. After all this event is one of the most important cultural experiences of the continent.



August Activity Report

August 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

The semester just started some weeks ago and I am now teaching first semester students for the first time. Now that I am conscious about the amount of content that most Japanese learners have to go through, I consider that we teachers underestimate the quantity of new vocabulary and that we sometimes believe that students are going to keep this new information forever. As for the very first year of Japanese learning, it issuggested (at least in our program) to make them learn numbers, days, age and all those Japanese counters on the first six months of the program.

As we already know, Japanese counters are specially tedious and easy to forget for most English and Spanish native speakers. I noticed that students need to have a lot of motivation to overcome the vast amount of new vocabulary and grammar, so I am willing to reinforce all this fresh knowledge as much as I can in the conversation group.

Unfortunately, I hurt myself while I was jogging some days ago and my doctor suggested that I need to rest as much as possible. My leg is causing a little bit of trouble but I hope to get better at the end of the week, so I can return to my normal activities. My students noticed my limping from the very first day and they have been very caring about my situation.

This makes me reflect on the importance of being careful when doing our physical activities, because otherwise one little injury could cause a lot of inconvenience. However, I have been following the indications of my doctor and everything seems to be going well so far.

We are about to open the conversation group very soon, but we have had some trouble to choose the most convenient time for the students. I have sent an invitation to some of the exchange students and we are waiting for a response. I feel optimistic about applying the materials of my creation that I used in previous semesters and I would also like to keep making more materials for these true beginners as well.


It is very usual to see Japanese students rescuing stray kitties.

July Activity Report

July 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

Raining season has started some weeks ago and as for the type of ecosystem in Guanajuato, one can really notice the incredible change of vegetation color on the mountains and surroundings of Guanajuato. This semester, the Cervantino Festival will have place in most theaters and streets of the city and appears to be that United States has been chosen as the special guest country. This means that a lot of the events and shows are going to be presented by American artists. Personally, I have noticed the relevance of this festival and how it provides local people and foreigners with the opportunity to get to know cultural expressions from all over the world. We are expecting even more people than previous years and I will gladly encourage all students to assists to some of the events.


During the last week of July, we finished our online meetings with a last presentation about the radical “Sanzui” which represents water and liquids. Originally, the plan was to study around 10 different radicals, but at the end we could only see around six because of the complexity and large number of examples I created. I am currently correcting and re-editing those presentations in order turn them into didactic material for the university. I am sure that is possible to reopen these online activities for the winter vacation period and try to offer a much wider range of examples and explanations. The inscription time has begun for most students of languages of the University of Guanajuato and according to some rumors, there is the possibility of receiving more basic level students for this semester. In other words, more participants could join our weekly activities. This week I will try to contact more students from other Japanese Universities who live in Guanajuato and invite them to our future conversation sessions. Now that most of the TUFS students are gone, it is convenient to keep trying to contact other exchange students and see what other activities we can implement for everyone.


June Activity Report

June 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

Students are still spending time with their families and enjoying summer vacation which started the first week of June and as many sources have indicated, Mexico is practically the hottest country on the planet right now. Some states in the north have reached more than 50 degrees and there have been many reports of people passing out on the streets. In case of Guanajuato the heat was not that serious, but it is definitely stronger than ever before. As I have explained in previous reports, some states in Mexico have a lot of problems with dams and their water levels during this season. Anyhow, since a couple of days ago the first rains of the year have finally arrived bringing peace and relief to the population and nature. There were some rumors about the dam of Guanajuato running out of water, but apparently the water level was just a little bit low. The state of Guanajuato is located right in the center of the Mexican territory which is right in the middle between the green part and the desertic part of Mexico. This means that we certainly need to find new ways to fight against desertification.

Some of my students requested my online support, so I reopened my reading and kanji online group. This time, I am making sure to offer a different presentation every week explaining the most important details of Kanjis and Radicals. When I was a student, I did not realize the relevance of radicals and how they provide valuable information about the word. This time, students are focusing of reading texts which I create in order to use all the precious information about grammar and kanji. Apparently, there are not only participants from second semester but also from other higher semesters, which makes it a little more challenging for me to keep my examples creative. Currently, I am in contact with at least fifteen students who attend my online class and receive my presentations by email. For next week, I am planning to teach them the radical “sanzui” and “tehen” which are personally some of my favorite radicals and kanjis. According to my Language coordinator, next semester would start before the second week of August for most students of the University of Guanajuato. There is still around four weeks left of my kanji and reading group and I am hoping to keep solving students’ questions and doubts.


May Activity Report

May 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

As I told in previous reports, the forum was held in a very convenient location which was close from the University’s main building. Students arrived from different cities of the same state of Guanajuato and the logistic of the event allowed them to watch presentations from other Universities around the world. There were even more visitors than previous events and I was very glad to receive so many students asking for information about the programs and scholarships from TUFS.

Fortunately, I was provided with a vast number of pamphlets and information sheets by the main office, and we were able to hand out more than half of the material.

Tarou, one of the exchange students who is studying Economics at the University of Guanajuato was there during the whole event and helped me staying at the booth giving information to all of the newcomers.

I could notice that there were actually many students from high school level participating in the activities. Games and quizzes about general culture and countries were available for everyone to play. Surprisingly, one group of students made me notice that there are not many options for those who are applying for medicine or nursery and pointed out that universities normally offer programs for economics, social sciences, engineering and laws, but rarely for Health sciences.


    

The conversation group was a very nice experience for the students to improve and prepare them for their oral exams during the whole semester.

For next semester, I would like to keep having this weekly reunions and invite students from other levels as well. According to some of my colleagues, there is still the possibility to organize cultural classes and various events for Japanese students. As I explained before, this semester had a lot of different holidays and national celebration weeks that maintained the students at home. However, next semester will be definitely more difficult and constant for everyone and I think that could organize something related with the food and culture now that the restrictions are gone.

I invited the students to assist to our lecture and kanji online-class that I will teach during the whole summer vacation period. According to the coordinator, some students were suggesting to reopen the group to keep practicing their kanji knowledge. Personally, I really enjoy when students get interested in kanji, because these symbols represent one very entertained yet complicated part of their learning process. I cannot wait to prepare examples and connect the knowledge they already know.

April Activity Report

April 2023
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Marco Antonio Vazquez Muñiz

It seems to be that a very persistent fire has been affecting the municipal dump which is very close to the city of Guanajuato. Since a few days ago, there is a very noticeable amount of smoke that is affecting not only academic activities but also everyone’s routines. According to the government, the fire cannot be controlled efficiently, and it appears to be that this situation might prolongate for more than a week. There are indications to stay home as much as possible and close doors and windows. It was a little bit shocking to stare at the city covered with so much pollution, because the sky in this city is normally so deep and blue. I have been in Mexico City in the past and I think that the problem with pollution can be a little bit more serious in big cities than this. Although I use to jog at the local park I am attempting to stay home and do something else at home. The University of Guanajuato has already sent a document with recommendations and indications of closing all schools and offices. In response to this issue, most teachers decided to provide online sessions until the smoke disappears. Hopefully, we will be able to retake normal activities for next week.

Spring has arrived and new exchange students are arriving to Guanajuato supported by various programs. I was going to invite them to our meetings, but this fire makes it not safe for the students to attend the class. On the other hand, the next forum for academic collaboration is going to be held in the facilities where I usually work for TUFS. I consider this building to be even better than other places due to the very convenient location which is right in front of the main building of the UG. This means that a lot of students will be able to attend the event if they want. I am willing to solve their questions about the exchange programs and to encourage them to make the decision of going abroad.

As for the conversation group, I am about to invite the new students from TUFS as well as other exchange students from other institutions. I am hoping to include as many students as possible and keep adapting more cultural features to our weekly reunions. I realized that I have to learn so many basic things I thought I already know. This is why it is important to learn not only from books but to try to get in contact with people when possible to affirm knowledge in our heads.

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