Educational Vision Crosses Cultures

By Sisters Masako Miyake and Carol Shoup, SNDdeN

St. Julie envisioned the educational mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to extend worldwide. That vision has unfolded in various ways into the 21st century. One expression of Julie’s early vision is the networking of “Sister Schools” internationally.

Exchange Students
Notre Dame Seishin* Girls’ Junior and Senior High School (NDS) in the city of Kurashiki, in the Okayama Prefecture, Japan, and Notre Dame High School in San Jose (NDSJ), California, U.S.A. are “Sister Schools” and even across a wide and deep ocean, relationships keep building. (Seishin = Immaculate Heart)

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One student and Amy Huang, (back row-left) Director of the Exchange Program at Notre Dame, San Jose, welcome 12 Japanese students and their teacher, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto (far right) outside of the school.

Every year young women from both schools have the opportunity to share their unique academic programs, cultures, and learning environments as exchange students. This year, Ms. Amy Huang, Director (NDSJ), organized the many details of the Student Exchange Program. On March 18, Amy and host families welcomed 12 Japanese students, their teacher, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto, and their Principal, Sister Masako Miyake SNDdeN for two weeks of academic and social sharing.

The first week began with a welcome breakfast and campus tour, including a history of the City of San Jose given by Social Studies teacher Mr. Jim Floyd. Shadowing their host IMG_9680-web600pxstudents to classes during the school week, our visitors experienced spotlights in classes in Global Studies Honors, Advanced Spanish Culture and Conversation, and in Biology Honors Class, where they examined and identified hominid skull casts. Then, hosted by Notre Dame Alumnae, they visited and toured Stanford University and Intel Corporation, for glimpses of higher education and innovation in America.

Highlights of Two Weeks

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In the gym at NDSJ, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto and the students from Kurashiki, Japan, share the love of St. Julie Billiart and her mission.

Our new friends enjoyed highlights of the Woman’s Place Project, by the Ninth Grade class, who honor in original table settings, 163 women of history, as well as the Young Woman Advocacy Summit, presentations by the Seniors’ of their yearly service projects on issues of justice and peace. At the end of the first week, our exchange students delighted in a downtown culture walk, a visit and tour of City Hall and the office of International Affairs.

After a weekend with host families and friends, the Japanese students were happy to see their Principal, Sister Masako Miyake, who came for the last week of the program, and curious and eager to explore a sister ND school and capture as much as possible on her camera. The students shared with Sr. Masako their visit to San Jose’s historic Japan town and Yu-Ai Kai, a Japanese-American senior center.

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The students share with Sr. Masako their visit to San Jose’s historic Japan town and Yu-Ai-Kai, a Japanese American senior center.

The girls delighted the senior citizens with Japanese songs and stories and enjoyed lunch before returning to school. During the next two days, the group toured San Francisco, with so many sights, from the cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate.

Deepened Relationships
Reflection time and discussion were interspersed over the course of the two weeks, for increased understanding and deepening of relationships. The exchange program concluded in a Farewell Party, with certificates for completion awarded to our Japanese students. There were dances and expressions of appreciation, among laughter, smiles, and tears. ND Seishin school gifted to their Sister School some beautifully decorated wooden plates. In return, NDSJ presented our Notre Dame Seishin school with a clock, engraved with a customized quote, “Time does not take away from friendship…”
(Tennessee Williams).

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At the airport, NDSJ students, teachers and some parents say “good-bye” to Japanese students, Ms. Kazumi Yamamoto and Sr. Masako Miyake, SNDdeN.

Thankful for their presence in our school community, teachers and students from NDSJ said farewell to these special young women, their teacher and principal from ND Seishin. Now, both schools begin to plan for ND San Jose students to visit ND Seishin, Kurashiki during the summer of 2018 in order to expand their vision of a Notre Dame Sister School and the culture and beauty of the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

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