For the second straight year, trainees from one of Japan’s leading manufacturer of automotive parts, Aisin AW, toured the College of Staten Island campus recently in a visit planned by CSI’s Center for International Service along with the Japan-America Academic Center.
Nearly 100 Aisin trainees made the trip, which is part of a larger tour meant to introduce the young trainees to U.S. culture and education as well as visit the company’s facilities in the U.S. According to Center for International Service Interim Executive Director Barbara Clark, the visit was a “chance for these young people to take part in the American college experience.”
The visit to CSI was part of Aisin’s increasing efforts to familiarize its employees with the English language and U.S. culture. The CSI visit was one stop on a week-long tour of U.S. institutions in various cities.
These trainees are part of a program meant to cultivate the young employees—many of them were no more than 18 years old—into management positions within the company, so it was imperative that they experience “mingling with people of other cultures,” according to Clark.
“Aisin is a traditionally Japanese company,” explained Clark. Their employees are basically employees for life, entering the company right out of school and growing as employees within, making it important for the company to find exciting ways to experience other people’s practices and cultures.
The trainees were welcomed by Clark, Study Abroad Advisor Satoko Fukai, and Special Programs Assistant Winnie Brophy before taking an extensive campus tour that introduced the trainees to the CSI Library, Campus Center, Center for the Arts, and the Sports and Recreation Center.
“The trainees loved the Rec Center,” said Ms. Fukai, “it really made them feel like they were visiting a traditionally American campus.”
Several members of the CSI community were involved in making the visitors feel welcome, including 34 student volunteers who took part in everything from the campus tour to the activities planned in the Recreation Center. Several of the activities, facilitated by the Coordinator for Student Leadership Programs from the Office of Student Life, Robert King Kee, involved the trainees and the CSI student volunteers discussing their names and nicknames and their potential meanings as a conversation starter.
“The Kendama presentation was the best part,” said Center for International Service Peer Advisor Daniel Giorlando, a junior Computer Science major who was one of the volunteers. A kendama is a traditional Japanese toy that is sometimes referred to as the classic cup and ball game in the U.S. “The trainees were incredibly dexterous.”
Giorlando, who recently returned from a studying abroad in China, also took part in the calligraphy and origami exercises and was struck by how friendly and outgoing the trainees were, “We really hit it off,” he said. “I even met some of the Japanese students living here and really got to know them.”
Like most of the staff and student volunteers working for the Center, Giorlando believes that exposure to people from other countries is important to one’s own development. “It’s important to see how other people go about doing things. You learn that we are all the same in many respects, but you also learn that there are so many other ways to go about doing anything.”
As is tradition, before the Aisin trainees left, they presented the Center for International Service with a plaque that had a single Japanese character 志 (“kokorozashi”) engraved on it that is loosely translated as “aspiration.”
“As a company, Aisin wants to foster this mentality that personal interaction is vital,” acknowledged Barbara Clark, who accepted the plaque on the Center’s behalf. “This trip is recognized as one of the perks for working for the company. What they may not realize is that their visit is one of the perks of being a part of CSI as well.”
More information about the Center for International Service and its exchange programs is available online.