SAF held the SAF Annual Meeting (FY 2022 Year-End Annual General Meeting) at Komazawa University Fukazawa Campus on Thursday, March 9, 2023.
This meeting is held for faculty in charge of international affairs at SAF network universities as well as staff of related organizations. This year’s meeting was the first to be held in person in the three years since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, Amber Mercier, VP for Strategy New Business Initiatives at the SAF USA headquarters, and Caleb Foale, Director of IES Abroad Tokyo Center, joined us to report on SAF’s programs and student support, IES Abroad Tokyo Center admissions status, and the future of study abroad at IES Abroad Tokyo Center.
- Opening Remarks
- SAF Activity Overview and Annual Report SAF
- Overseas Language Programs: Trends
- SAF Program Review & IES Center Overview SAF
- Discussion, Q&A, Information Sharing Q&A
- Presentation: The Complexity of Student Needs in the post-COVID Environment
- Discussion, Q&A, Information Sharing Q&A
SAFSAF Japan Office Activity Report
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the seminar was held in a hybrid format with both face-to-face and online sessions. We were pleased to have 31 participants (16 universities and 2 organizations) in the face-to-face session and about 35 participants (19 universities) in the online session.
After the opening address by Professor Yuichi Mashimo, Director of Komazawa University International Center, SAF Japan Office Director Brett Rumminger gave a report on the activities of the SAF Japan Office in fiscal year 2022. The center welcomed three new members in October, bringing the total number of members to ten.
A pre-survey of 44 member universities and faculties was conducted. Of these, 30 universities and faculties responded. According to the preliminary questionnaire, it is clear that the number of students traveling to study abroad on exchange or agreement in FY2022:
- (mid- to long-term) increased at more than half of the universities and faculties, with the total being 26.7%9] of all students, an increase of more than 200% over the previous year.
- (short-term) increased at more than half of the universities and faculties, with the total figure being 36.7 % of all students, an increase of more than 200% over the previous year.
The number of students seems to be returning to almost the pre-pandemic level.
Looking at the number of students studying abroad by destination country, the USA, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and South Korea were the most popular destinations for both mid- and short-term study, indicating the persistent popularity of English-language study abroad, as well as countries that opened their borders early on despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Next, Ms. Wakako Wengel, Assistant Director of SAF Japan Office, Program Advising, gave a report on recent trends in overseas language programs.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of university-affiliated language schools in Europe and America had been closing due to financial difficulties, and it is essential to provide alternative language programs (such as language programs run by IES centers), language +α programs, and more comprehensive support in order to respond to sudden program organization and program changes at local universities. 7]
SAF and IES Abroad
Ms. Michiyo Fujimoto, Assistant Director of SAF Japan Office, University Relations and Program Development, explained again about SAF’s programs and the application process.
She also mentioned the “Specialized Short-Term Study Abroad Program,” which is being developed in cooperation with IES Abroad, and Ms. Mayuki Kono, a first-year student at Komazawa University who actually participated in the Spring 2023 “Communication and Culture in Ireland” program, gave a presentation about her experience.
Caleb Foale, Director of IES Abroad Tokyo Center, introduced the activities of IES Centers around the world, and gave examples of American universities that have hosted IES Centers. Amber Mercier, VP for Strategy New Business Initiatives at SAF’s American headquarters, then discussed the advantages and future possibilities of implementing customized programs for each university, using the Duke Kunshan University program in China as a case study.
Study Abroad and Mental Health
There was a report concerning the mental health of students studying abroad, which has become an issue of particular concern since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of supporting students’ mental health was reemphasized, citing two examples of actual support provided by SAF.
Most overseas universities have resources available for mental health care, with psychologists on campus in many cases. Nevertheless, in cases where there is a language barrier or the university cannot handle the situation in the first place, SAF and IES need to work together with medical institutions, outside specialists, insurance companies, and guardians to address the situation.
SAF will continue to make every effort to further strengthen cooperation with related organizations in order to meet support needs, which have been increasing and becoming more complex since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, there was time for discussion among the participants, during which they actively exchanged ideas and opinions about international student support. Various ideas were presented that would lead to better program offerings, and we believe that horizontal connections were also created among SAF network university members, who do not normally talk to each other.
Before the start of the General Meeting, SAF also held a tour of the Study Abroad Counseling Office on Komazawa University’s Komazawa Campus, where SAF study abroad advisors are in charge of onsite study abroad advising services for Komazawa University students. During the tour, many questions were asked and information was exchanged about the details of the study abroad counseling and the onsite placement of study abroad counseling with specific examples of cooperation between SAF and the university (International Center).
The participants in the general meeting commented, “It was good to learn about SAF’s support system and activities in detail,” “I was able to rethink issues at my own university through exchanges with other participants,” and “It was informative to learn more about the details of SAF’s support activities, including case studies.”