Japanese Sister City Scholar Reflects on NMU

Aoi Hirose in NMU's Superior Dome

Aoi Hirose is the 42nd Sister City Scholar to study at Northern from Higashiomi, Japan. Marquette and Higashiomi have been developing deep connections since 1979, and the Sister City Scholar program provides opportunities for university students to enact and revitalize this relationship.

During her semester in Marquette, Hirose engaged in two projects to contribute to the development between the two cities: a Japanese cooking class held at the Marquette Food Co-op and an elementary school video exchange.

Elementary schools in Higashiomi and Marquette created and exchanged videos which introduced their respective schools in order to provide an opportunity for students to learn about the differences in school styles between the sister cities. Hirose recounted students' curiosity regarding cultural contrasts, especially about Japanese cleaning culture and American snack time.

“I think it was a good opportunity for kids to get to know their sister city and interact with each other," said Hirose. "It was a great experience for me as well. I actually observed a class at Sandy Knoll Elementary School as they made the video—I saw many interesting differences,”

The cooking class featured Hirose's demonstrations and instruction on how to prepare four traditional Japanese comfort dishes—Onigiri (Japanese rice ball), miso soup, tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omlette) and Nikujaga (meat and potato stew)—along with a presentation on Higashiomi.

“These recipes represent homemade dishes that have been rooted in Japanese culinary culture for a long time. I chose them because I wanted to show lesser-known Japanese foods that aren't as famous as sushi, ramen, or curries. I personally love the gentle taste of these foods, they remind me of Japan” reflected Hirose.

“The class was a big success, participants were very warm and curious about Japanese foods, and they seemed to enjoy the class. When I gave the presentation about my city, everyone listened to me carefully and after the class I got compliments, which made me happy” she said.

As an international relations major, Hirose focused her study at Northern on history, composition, and music classes. She specifically recalls gaining new and intriguing perspectives from taking the Turning Points in History course, which focused on East Asian countries during the WWII era.

“What's interesting to me was how I could learn WWII history from an American perspective, which differed from what I learned about the war in Japan. History has so much subjectivity, so teaching varies in every country. Learning about Japanese history and foreign relations from a more objective stance was a valuable and interesting experience,” she said, “I actually had some new discoveries and I learned that what I was taught in my country is just one aspect of history.”

Hirose also noted the differences in atmosphere and style between Japanese and American classrooms.

“In school in Japan, students sit and listen to the lectures quietly, and they rarely speak out in the class. The students here speak out actively, and they share opinions freely in class. Also, Northern has many events which encourage student involvement whereas my university doesn't have the same kind of student opportunities” she reported.

Hirose's most valuable experience at Northern was being able to meet different kinds of people from across America and abroad.

“Since Japan has very little diversity, I didn't have an opportunity to interact with people from different countries, so it was a great experience to have met and spent time with them at Northern,” she said.

She also reported enjoying the Marquette community and beautiful scenery while studying at Northern, mentioning the benefits she felt came from living in a peaceful and cozy place with breathtaking natural areas.

“This city has many fascinating aspects, including welcoming people, nature, and senses of safety and comfort. I would highly recommend Marquette, and I'd love to bring my family to visit someday. Also, If you'd like to study at a quiet and comfortable place, NMU would be a good place to study,” she said.

Looking toward the end of the semester and her return to Higashiomi, Hirose plans to continue her involvement in building sister city relationships using her Northern experience. She will use her remaining five semesters at her university to decide what she would like to specialize in: she wants to take more history courses, and is interested in teaching and working abroad in the future.

“My time at Northern gave me confidence from taking classes in my second language, and helped me see the different and broader world; my options for the future expanded thanks to this experience,” Hirose reported.

Prepared By

Ashley Kluting
Student Writer

Categories: Around NMU, Strategic Plan