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Hokusei University Visits HIS
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Four Hokusei University students and their professor visit HIS for an English-environment Experience!


Hokusei University Visits HIS

An interview and a cultural exchange

Words: Karen Kitagawa

Photos: Katie Kim

Back Row: Karen, Mr. Pangier, Professor Allison

Front Row: Four Hokusei Students

   Hokusei students ask questions about HIS

At HIS (Hokkaido International School), we have a number of opportunities to meet and talk to other students from other schools and cultures, including the Hiragishi Exchange Club, the Sagara exchange, a musical exchange with Frankfurt International School, and our ongoing relationship with Hokkaido University (see this fall's SDG discussion). On Friday, February 24th, another opportunity to share cultures came through four Hokusei students and their professor, Jim Allison (who just also happens to be the father of one of our alumna, Megumi Allison). The goal of their visit was to experience an English environment.

All four students are a part of a class that, pre-Covid, would usually travel abroad. In place of that, Professor Allison arranged a number of domestic exchanges around Sapporo, HIS being one of those, which allowed him to introduce his four Hokusei non-English students to his daughter's alma matter.

At HIS the four students spent a good part of an hour interviewing Mr. Pangier (who joined HIS upon the year of Megumi Allison's graduation, teaching her AP Literature and Composition), myself, and Katie Kim who came along to support with the photography. In the end, we all got to know each other so well, that we continued the conversation well beyond our expected time, even giving the students an informal tour as we all left the building around 5:30 pm.

The four Hokusei students who came were interested in English. One student shared her initial spark. “When I was a high schooler, I had English communication classes and I met native teachers, which made me interested in English. [From there, I] [s]tarted to enjoy communicating in English with other international students [and] would like to talk to people from other countries when traveling.”  Following introductions, where all shared their motivations for learning English and their curiosity for English environments, the Hokusei students moved on to their interview of Mr. Pangier, who, this year, teaches literature and composition, AP Research, creative writing, and, of course, publications. Student questions ranged from asking about what credits are required to graduate to understanding the way the two school systems (Japanese and HIS) compared. Some students were also interested in hearing about our events, including whether or not we had events that were open to the public. Mr. Pangier shared the pre-Covid situation and the hopeful 2023-2024 situation, mentioning the fall festival and spring bazaar as times when the wider community could come to get a glimpse of our school. The student questions showed a strong interest in finding out about HIS.

Although the original design of the exchange was for students to interview Mr. Pangier, with our publications interview to follow, soon we all grew so comfortable with each other that we were exchanging questions as they came to mind. Through this exchange, Katie, Mr. Pangier, and I were able to ask and respond to questions, as we all found out more reasons why the four Hokusei students were so interested in English.

Finding out about culture

Another one of the students shared her background: “When I was a high school student, I met a girl who came to study Japanese. At that time I couldn’t speak English but I wanted to talk with her. Since then I realized that I needed to improve my English skills to talk with others.” By the end of the first hour, it was clear that each student had a different purpose for learning English. Throughout the interaction, students were trying to communicate with us by using English, which I believe was one of the steps for them to further develop their spoken English.

Students were also interested in comparing the different environments. One of the students told us, “Before I came to this school, I imagined [your] school with American chairs and desks. But after seeing the shoeboxes and slippers, I realized that there was a lot of Japanese culture in this school.” The Hokusei students who visited HIS were surprised about some of the similarities and differences. They weren't the first Japanese school to be surprised by our Japanese-style genkan. The Sagara High School students responded with similar surprise.  

Even though it was a short time together, we really enjoyed interacting with new people and talking about our school. Every student was very curious about our school and at the end of the interview one Hokusei student shared her observation, “In this school, I think it's good that you are able to communicate with people from different ages. When I was a high schooler, I didn't have the opportunity to communicate with younger people, so I think this school is a good environment to interact with each other.” This comment really summed up our experience.

We hope we have more opportunities to interact with Hokusei students another time. We believe it was a great experience for everyone involved! 

Hokusei Gakuen University is a coeducational school in Sapporo that is rooted in the spirit of Christianity. Professor Jim Allison has been living in Sapporo for 27 years and has a lot of different interesting connections between HIS. He played on a community basketball team in HIS for years, and, as was mentioned above, his eldest daughter attended HIS as a student from 3rd grade to graduation. 

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