2020 Activity Report
March Activity Report
31 March 2021
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Sometimes raining and windy ... warm and cold ... sometimes it's just like summer day, and weather is unpredictable days every day. Almond flowers are all gone, but various flowers are blooming one after another. It has been more than a year since we were swayed by the COVID-19. Since it seems that vaccination has finally resumed, I feel like that the day to be released from the COVID-19 is approaching step by step. On the other hand, before Holy Week in late March, the media criticized the government's measures as "They repeat the same mistake as the Christmas holidays." and warned citizens that "The fourth wave will surely come." and "The fourth wave has already arrived." The beginning of spring, coupled with the holiday of Holy Week, makes everyone relaxed (Photo 1). However, we still have to persevere in this state.
The annual Japanese Culture Week followed the Japanese Film Festival this month. The event was entirely held online, and although there was no fun of people gathering, some people could participate or tried to participate in this event because of online.
The Salamanca GJO within the Faculty of Literature, started a series of study abroad conferences to welcome international students (Photo 2). The first one is about preparation for studying abroad. Belongings, money, insurance, visas, accommodation, etc., are slightly different depending on the university, but the stories by the experienced persons seemed to dispel the anxiety about “invisible matters” a little. The second session was about scholarship, classes at Waseda University and university life. We could ask various questions about the scholarship, i.e., how to apply to or obligations after gaining, to those who held Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho:MEXT) Scholarship and JASSO (Japan Student Service organization) Scholarship. The speakers students seemed to have a lot of trouble of collecting the scholarship application documents of lack of knowledge. They kindly attended this conference in order to help giving information to the new applicants. It is not limited to studying in Japan, but the documentations in Japan are especially complicated said everyone. In addition, it was also useful to get some hints as to the course selection at Waseda University's Japanese language education program has many available subjects to take. In this second session, the students who had apparently had negative experiences, such as they had to live in an old dormitory or had to go to a hospital, and to have overcome the predicaments, to have grown significant through their studying experiences in Japan. It was encouraging to see a glimpse of their growth in this session.
February Activity Report
28 February 2021
Global Japan Office Coordinator
This year, the exams which started in January, lasted until the beginning of February due to counter-corona measures but it seems the prolonged time provided students time to relax. From the students’ point of view, it might have been a long test marathon like a long winter. I think it was a good period for both students who got good results and students who got bad results to review the contents of their studies. After the exams were over, by the middle of February, each student confirmed and adjusted their class schedule in advance to the second semester. Taking the impact of the covid-19 third wave, classrooms were considered not only in terms of distance but also structure, so the amount of permitted available seats per classroom were reviewed. As a result, the capacity of some classrooms decreased slightly.
The third wave has passed its peak, but the Autonomous Community of Castile and León government declared its 20 o’clock curfew a violation. The announcement was made just before the weekend when the exams were over. People came and went around the whole town to enjoy the precious 2 hours from 20 o’clock to 22 o’clock. Young people, especially, seemed to have been waiting for that moment. Bar and restaurants are still prohibited to cater for eating and drinking indoors, so restaurants that used to only provide indoors service now have terrace seats and take out to survive (Photo 1 and 2). Even around the university campus, you can see everyone looking for a place with a take-out coffee in hand during breaks and after classes as coffee shops cannot provide indoors sears anymore. On sunny days, you can see students gathering as before in the staircase in front of the literature department and the meeting square (Photo 3).
As soon as the second semester started, I began to see many foreign students from Germany, England, France and so on. As the number of Asian students has increased, I wondered if some might have come from Japan so I asked the International Department again, but no department had welcomed Japanese students. By the way, the University of Salamanca does not have Spanish language courses for international students, and foreign students from Japan seem to be enrolled in the Faculty of Literature, the Faculty of Geography and History, the Faculty of Social Science, the Faculty of Economics, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Art, and so on. In addition, there are courses that can be taken freely between departments, so there are a wide range of choices, and it is fun but difficult to make a course plan.
This month we held a briefing session on the procedures with overseas destinations for those who decided to study abroad. Even in Japan, students who can choose not only Japanese language courses but also common subjects in the department seem to be in trouble because there are many subjects they want to take, but I envy them for their pleasant worries.
Almond flowers have bloomed in Salamanca, and cherry blossoms, which will be in season soon, are showing buds making me dreamy (Photo 4, 5).
January Activity Report
31 January 2021
Global Japan Office Coordinator
At the end of the Christmas holidays, the school reopened on the 11th, and just before the last lesson of the first semester, many parts of Spain were covered in a cold spell called “Filomena ” which prevented many students from returning to Salamanca, either because of snow or because of canceled transportation. In Madrid, the capital of Spain, 20 centimeters of snow piled up (Photo 1). Salamanca had its heaviest snowfall in 16 years, or the heaviest in 46 years, and many cities were not up to speed with snow shovels and antifreeze salts (sodium chloride). Stone-paved streets and other streets were frozen and people were walking carefully, like in a terrible downhill road (Photo 2, 3).
After that, we started the exam of the previous term, and secured a long term classroom for corona countermeasures. The examination lasts three weeks. Even so, students and roommates who had some symptoms related to Corona were waiting for the results of the PCR test, and the test could not be completed at once, so each of them had to deal with it. Also, there are cases where European students return to their parents’ home temporarily during the Christmas holidays, and cannot leave the country after the holidays, so I am still a little worried.
After all, with the restrictions relieved during vacations, the arrival of the third wave of the Corona was foreseen, but within a week after the holidays, the Autonomous community of Castile and León government again closed restaurants and imposed a curfew after 20 o’clock. In Spain, each state has its own curfew, but moving up to 20 o’clock surprised many, some people even called out the curfew for opposing the government’s curfew of 22 o’clock to 6 o’clock. However, the state government remains resolute, and the rule appears to continue until May 9, when the alert is due to end. University classes are open until 9 PM, so public education will continue as usual, with the requirement that students carry their university identification cards and other documents in order. In addition, people who have not been eating out or going out at night are able to live without much change as they are allowed to buy food and medicine even after 20 o’clock.
However, even students who are ready to go to Japan to study from the spring term may feel like giving up when it comes to this. Fortunately, the University of Salamanca has many Japanese partner universities, so even if they miss out on studying abroad this time, I hope they will not give up hope and have goals for next year and the year after.
The online exchange meeting started around 11, and despite being the examination period, participants were enthusiastic, which led to personal communication during the spring break of Japanese universities. What you can learn from studying abroad is much more than what you can get from exchange meetings, but it’s time to connect with Japan online now, make good use of the possibilities that we have available, and make use of what we have.
December Activity Report
31 December 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator
In December, there are two consecutive national holidays in Spain, and they usually come adjacent to the weekend making it a consecutive holiday. When the Christmas holidays start from the 23rd, there are only a few days left for classes. It’s natural for students to be nervous. But teachers have the mission to finish the course by the end of the year and take an exam in January to evaluate students. With a declining attendance, continuing the classes is very discouraging every year, but it’s also a time when you want to give more careful guidance to those who do attend and make the class feel more meaningful.
Usually, people who come from far away are absent from classes as they return home and need to secure transportation. This is especially true for those who have to fly sooner to avoid high prices. This year, we’ve seen the effects of the coronavirus here, and we’ve heard of parents taking time off from work and driving to pick their children up to avoid public transportation. Furthermore, in order to avoid the risk of getting infected, the government issued a national slogan that calls for people to minimize contact with others for 10 days before returning home. Also, the national railway RENFE called for people to avoid visiting elderly families. On the other hand, restrictions on movement were lifted, the “emergency situation” was temporarily suspended, and people were seen going out with friends they rarely met in town (Photo 1).
Amidst this situation, a briefing session was held before the Christmas holidays for students selected to study at Japanese universities next year. (Photo 2) It is held not after the holidays but before the holidays so that students can apply for a passport during the holidays. Also, if you are to be attending a university that offers language courses apart from Japanese, you can check what subjects you would want to take. While preparing for studying abroad in the middle of a pandemic may cause a lot of anxiety, the questions and answers session was very lively, and I felt that most people would not miss this chance as long as Japanese universities are willing to accept them. Some of the participants were students in the psychology department. Us, language majors, can’t be left behind.
In case you are wondering, our literature department offers not only Spanish courses for foreigners, but a variety of other subjects like Spanish linguistics, literature from Spanish speaking countries, and Spanish education. For this reason, foreign students from Japan should think twice before deciding which subjects to take.
An online Spanish-Japanese exchange activity was also held for a month without incident, despite the holidays. Even if you make a few grammatical mistakes or don’t get the word right, just don’t break the rhythm of the conversation, and try to get to know what the other person is trying to say in a variety of ways. Watching these exchanges, I really that the participants had learned about culture not only from the words and the content of the story, but also from the way of thinking and the way of speaking.
November Activity Report
30 November 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator
In Spain, since classes started, there have been two national holidays; “National Day of Spain” on October 12 and “All Saints’ Day” on November 1. However, due to restrictions on travel this year, for many students, the holidays were just days at home to do homework rather than returning to their hometowns.
At the end of October, there was an election for the dean and the department head of the university, which did not carry over to a re-election, and was decided in November. In fact, this election was scheduled to start in March, and it was being put off for a long time. In the literature department, three candidates with different personalities ran for the election. The candidates’ proposed programs were examined, and lively online speeches were held. Finally, a new dean and the department head were elected, and the departmental organization was regulated.
It is now mid-autumn, meaning we are now in the mid-term of the first semester. Some are doing well, some are getting better, and some are struggling, but exams are awaiting all students early next year. Although we have gradually started to hear voices of concern about the testing methods, we have been told to take action on a case-by-case basis so far.
Also, there are students who are preparing to study in Japan for the second semester at the earliest. Next year’s selection of students to study in Japan was also held, and a briefing session for the students to prepare for studying abroad is scheduled before the Christmas holidays in December.
The exchange meeting with foreign students that we had held until last year was not held this year, but we were able to start a Spanish-Japanese exchange meeting online. Although the meeting was held online, being able to meet Japanese students has made the participating students become even more interested in Japan.
Most students who were taking online classes due to COVID-19 have returned to campus, and I feel that the university has good control over the virus. However, as of November 27, 41 out of 23485 students from all departments and 1 student from the literature department were reported to have tested positive. Similar to Japan’s “3Cs” we started a Christmas campaign here called the “6Ms”. The “Ms” in this case stand for Mascarilla (use masks whenever possible), Manos (frequent hand washing), Metros (maintain physical distance), Maximizar ventilación y actividades al aire libre (maximize ventilation and outdoor activities), Minimizar número de contactos (minimize number of contacts), and “Me quedo en casa” (stay home).
The Christmas lights are usually set up in November and lit up on the last weekend of November, but this year the schedule seems to have been moved up. The lights were being put up in October, and by mid-November, you could already enjoy the gorgeous lighting throughout the city. I believe it is the intention of the city to enhance its atmosphere as much as possible. Lottery tickets, which can be said to be a special feature of Christmas, are also being sold. In Spain, the Christmas lottery has great significance, and it is a tradition to share your numbers with important friends, and to share your hopes and dreams with them. Every year, the lottery commercials are aired, and this year’s commercials are encouraging people to buy lottery tickets to share with others and to help each other, reinforcing the sense of community with neighbours that went through quarantine together. Surprisingly, the University of Salamanca also has lottery numbers, and each campus sells lottery tickets. In fact, I bought one for the first time this year, hoping we can all overcome COVID-19 together. I chose the number of the cafeteria in the basement of the literature department! Will I win the lottery?
October Activity Report
31 October 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator
From March to May, classes were conducted online, and examinations, evaluations, academic meetings, and student guidance seminars were all conducted online. However, the University of Salamanca complied with the aim of conducting classes face-to-face as much as possible, and so classes on-campus began on October 1. In the school building, arrows on the walls guide students to walk one-way. In the classroom (Photo 1), students sit at their designated numbered seats, and after use, students sterilize their desks and chairs. The windows and doors are fully open, allowing face-to-face lessons for the first time in more than six months. Now, however, there are concerns about what to do when it starts to get colder (Photo 2).
On the other hand, some groups held annual welcoming parties for new students which was prohibited, and the students who were identified were expelled from university for 2 weeks. When seeing this kind of student behaviour, I think of the saying “Nothing is scary when you’re not alone.” According to statistics from September to October 19, 238 people were infected at the University of Salamanca (no more than six teachers were infected), which is still lower than at other universities, and all of the infections were reported in activities or locations unrelated to the university. Although this figure is unthinkable in Japan, here, ever day there is so much news related to COVID, and we are becoming insensitive to these figures. Since the end of the summer vacation, the spreading has increased rapidly. In Salamanca, movement restrictions have been applied again since the middle of October, and at the end of the month a curfew after 22 o’clock was issued. These restrictions vary from state to state and change frequently, so we must be very cautious.
A freshman orientation was held on October 2. Although we are still facing a pandemic, fourth-grade seniors introduced to the freshmen various student activities. The Bachelor’s Degree in East Asian Studies consists of three majors; Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, but it is rare for everyone to be together in the same space (Photo 3)
On October 5, a briefing session was held for foreign students who came to the Literature Faculty of the University of Salamanca. There were no foreign students from Asia, but students from Europe and those who are planning to study in the latter half of the year participated online from their Universities (Photo 4).
Later, the GJO hosted an online study abroad briefing for those who were considering studying in Japan next year, and many people attended. The staff of the International Affairs Division, as well as teachers from Tokai University from Japan participated. It was very efficient to be able to answer questions about application procedures and the study destinations all at once.
As a first trial, we were able to hold study-abroad experience briefing session. Since the University of Salamanca has more than 20 partner universities in Japan, the Japanese language study program is full of options that can meet the needs of various students. Students who attended shared their experience of studying abroad and its benefits to their lives despite the pandemic. We also compiled a report on the students’ experiences and shared it on the university platform. The process of studying abroad begins with choosing a destination, which has can have a big impact on the students’ way of thinking and how they will solve future problems, just as each country and region has different ways of dealing with the virus.
September Activity Report
30 September 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator
The hot and long summer vacation in July and August has come to an end. In Japan, air conditioning is very common, but here in Spain, only department stores, grocery stores, and slightly larger or newer stores have air conditioning. Unless you live in the city where it’s impossible to live without air conditioning, the way to keep out the heat here is to close the shutters during the day to avoid the sun. Also, many people spend the whole day at a pool or the sea – a very relaxing way to pass the time. Some stores implement summer working hours and only open for half the day. Due to COVID-19 this year, which dominates the news every day in many parts of the world, it seems that no matter how long the summer holidays were, people only visited their second homes or went sightseeing in nearby locations. Salamanca is only an hour and a half away from the border of Portugal, so it is a popular destination with easy access, even during the pandemic. I have also seen tourists in the streets of Salamanca, however the decrease in numbers is extremely evident.
On September 1, the summer vacation ended and the university started, but this year, classes began on October 1 – 3 weeks later than usual. As for the campus, the gates are now fully open (Photo 1) and you can see signs that prohibit tourists from entering. Not only were there disinfectant gels and thermometers installed, but there were arrows all over the place to keep to the right (Photo 2, 3), and ropes to keep people from crossing. In the classrooms, social distancing rules were strengthened, such as installing transparent partitions, sitting one space apart, numbering the desks, and specifying seats. The allocation of classrooms was redone from scratch too, and to expand the space of use, even a part of the library was turned into classrooms. In addition, all classrooms were equipped with video cameras to accommodate online classes. The installation was completed at the end of September, and on September 30, a briefing session was held for teachers on how to use cameras and microphones. There was also a Webinar for online classes, and every day was hectic for the teachers.
The opening ceremony of the university was broadcasted online, and the faculty meetings, the department meetings, and the student guidances are all basically conducted online. The university’s wish was to offer face-to-face classes as much as possible, but during the summer vacation, the statistics on COVID were getting worse and worse, so both teachers and students were worried about whether classes on campus could really be feasible.
June Activity Report
30 June 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Considering the time of year, this year June was oddly chilly. However, recently the dry Salamanca summer has finally arrived, and the scorching sunrays feel hotter than usual, most likely because I haven’t left my house since Spring.
In Spain, gradual easing of the lockdown had started in late May, but in the Autonomous Community of Castile and Leon, where Salamanca is located, Phase 2 of the 5 phases was at a standstill. At midnight on June 21, the state of alert was lifted, even though the phase transition was incomplete. From the next day, on the 22nd, we all restarted our lives according to the “nueva normalidad” (“new normal”). This sudden change left people not quite sure of how to go about their daily routines, however progress is being made.
After the declaration of the state of alert was lifted, the university reopened the library with limited access. Book lending and return services are now available, as well as half of the seats in the reading rooms. Books that have been read must be kept off the shelfs for 72 hours. When entering other buildings, our staff must obtain a permit, but generally, teleworking is being recommended and continued by many. Online activities such as student guidance and meetings have become the norm. The university plans on holding next year’s classes face-to-face, but we must also consider the possibility of remote classes depending on the situation.
Just when final exams for the second semester, which started in the latter half of May, finished, students had follow-up exams from the first and second semester. Unlike the evaluation method that was announced at the beginning of the term, the university placed as much emphasis on ongoing evaluation as possible. This meant that while the students had a fair amount of tasks to execute, the teachers were also busy correcting and evaluating them. Furthermore, the fourth-year students are preparing to submit their graduation theses and are still striving in the heat to complete their works.
Some students who plan to study in Japan decided to try again next year, rescheduled their exchange for the spring semester only, or are waiting to make their decisions until the very last minute. The original rule is that if you withdraw your decision to study abroad, it will be considered a negative factor in your next application, but this rule will not be applied this year. However, there is no guarantee that the students will be able to follow through with their study abroad plans next year either, and so careful consideration is needed.
On a different note, I went to the center of Salamanca and was surprised at the large number of people at first. However, it was rather quiet from the Plaza Mayor (main square) to the cathedral where the Faculty of Philology is located, and from Anaya Square to the Calle Mayor (main street), which is usually crowded with tourists (Photo 1). Many souvenir shops and restaurants were open, encouraging each other in the hope that tourists would come back to Salamanca soon. The overcrowded bars, which I used to enjoy, where quiet but I could see a few people chatting and enjoying their breaks while wearing masks and keeping distance from others. Also, the waiters were carefully disinfecting the handrails of the terrace seats every time they had been used (Photo 2). At clothing stores, items that were tried on but not bought must be taken off the shelves for 48 hours. At the Plaza Mayor there were new road signs (Photo 3), and everyone passing by wore a mask. Greeting cheek kisses were nowhere to be seen, and people kept their distances even while talking to others. It was a scene that looked nothing like the Spain that I know. When I thought about this being the “new normal” that is taking root in our daily lives, I could not help but feel that we are at a turning point in our long standing cultural traditions.
May Activity Report
31 May 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator
Classes at the University of Salamanca, after having shifted to an online system from March 13, came to an end in mid-May. Some departments finished a little earlier than others. Due to the fact that schedules differ for each department, both teachers and students who had classes outside of their departments were in very complicated situations. According to a student currently studying in Japan, Japan is being cautious about shifting to online classes and e-learning systems are being fully implemented before classes start.
Besides classes, there are exams. In the end, these were also held online. Teachers have been struggling with how to measure individual students’ abilities online since the beginning of online classes. Online examinations in the form of tests were widely reduced, and an ongoing evaluation system was adopted as much as possible. This highlights the nature of the evaluation that the Bologna Accord aims to achieve, but it had not been realized, and so each teacher had to spend a considerable amount of time to adapt to this evaluation system. In addition, most of the teachers had never carried out an online test before, so various supplementary courses were urgently held.
On May 18, all testing began simultaneously, and the 10 day exam period was temporarily ceased. Currently, evaluations are being announced, and some teachers say that the scores are higher than usual. In any case, those who have spent the last two and a half months in their homes studying persistently have received good grades.
It seems that students who have finished exams are starting to prepare for their study abroad next year, and we have been receiving many questions. Keeping in mind that their study abroad may be cancelled, students still must be prepared as planned for when the situation settles down.
Although it has been a long process, Salamanca has moved on from Phase 0, Phase 0.5, and finally to Phase 1 of deregulation on May 25. Access to the university is limited to unavoidable cases, but the easing of quarantine was a big step toward a new lifestyle. Since then, almost as though spring had been hibernating and has suddenly come into full bloom, crowds of people have largely increased Wearing a mask when you go out is a new regulation. Even in early March, when the spread of corona viruses was a hot topic, no one wore a mask because it gave the impression that people had a serious infectious disease and caused discrimination. Three months later, even though many are still not used to it, both adults and children are following the regulations by wearing masks. The scenery of Spain is unlike ever before.
April Activity Report
30 April 2020
Global Japan Office Coordinator
After a state of emergency was declared due to the “new coronavirus” in April, the government restricted people from going out for a long period of time, then extended this period, extended it again, and extended it once again. During the first two weeks, various online measures were taken, and while it was difficult to adapt to the situation, some people were able to concentrate on their studies.
As soon as April began, the University of Salamanca began its 11-day holiday with Holy Week from the 3rd to the 13th. In addition to this, lectures were cancelled on April 23, which is a state holiday, and on the following day, the 24th, which is the day of the patron saint of the Faculty of Letters. It’s not a good time to have this kind of break in addition to outing restrictions, but I think it was a good time for students because the end of the semester is just around the corner and they have a lot of assignments. On the other hand, it’s hard to get a good change of pace in a restricted environment, so I think this year’s Holy Week holidays are tiring in a different way. From sightseeing to art galleries to concerts and circuses, you can enjoy a variety of activities online and in virtual reality. With online classes on sports and meditation available to help our tired brains rest, it’s hard to imagine how our modern lifestyles would be without a computer or internet connection to do anything, and it’s important to find a balance between using technology and doing things by hand.
In Spain, at the beginning of the lockdown, to thank the hospital staff, someone from somewhere started clapping. It spread, leading to big applause, and soon the whole town could hear the sound of not one but many people clapping, and now it’s a national practice. Every day at 8pm, everybody goes out on their balconies and claps. Some sing songs and play musical instruments, but in residential areas full of humorous people, there are also performances of special skills, dance competitions and discoes. The Spanish people are full of ideas, with entire communities participating on their respective balconies for bingo tournaments and games. Also, I think that kind of atmosphere is behind the action of helping each other in the neighborhood.
Also, during this lockdown period, there are always certain items that are sold out in stores. Disinfection related items such as alcohol and paper-products seem to sell out everywhere, but strangely enough, in Spain, baking powder has been continuously sold out. Apparently, everyone enjoys making sweets and bread at home. You can really see how everyone is working on the things they couldn’t do before.
The university will be closed for a month and a half. The semester has been adjusted for online exams and final evaluations, and it looks like this school year is going to end online. (Figure 2)