Fostering global connections: Bennies welcomes students from Japan

In March this year, students from Seiwa Joshi Gakuin College in Sasebo in Japan visited Mount St Benedict College in Pennant Hills, continuing a tradition that began in the 1960s. This was the first visit since 2019 and reaffirmed the longstanding connection between the schools.

Bennies has a long and special connection with Seiwa College; both schools were established by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. Speaking at last year’s 70th anniversary of the founding of Seiwa College, Congregational Leader Sister Catherine McCahill said: “As Good Samaritans, we try to be good neighbours. Our Sisters hoped and prayed that the girls who studied at the College would become women of peace, women who are good neighbours and good citizens.”

This is the spirit and tradition the first Sisters brought to the school when they named it Seiwa, which means holy peace.

Image supplied by Mount St Benedict College.

During last month’s visit, 22 students and two staff from Seiwa College immersed themselves in Australian life, staying with host families, attending classes, and sightseeing around Sydney.

For Bennies students, the experience was transformative. It increased their confidence in speaking Japanese, deepened their appreciation for Japanese culture, and gave them an opportunity to share their own cultural heritage.

Three Bennies students reflected on the experience.

Sahiba: “Volunteering to host Tsubasa was an immensely gratifying and enriching experience for us. She brought a piece of Japan into our home and, in return, we hope she took a bit of Australia and countless cherished memories back with her.”

Catherine: “It was an amazing experience to meet someone my age from across the world. I loved getting to know my host sister, Mio. We shared many great memories and experiences that I will cherish forever.”

Cynthia: “Hosting was a fun and rewarding experience that my family will not forget. We would have loved Koyuki to stay longer so we could get to know her more and find out more about Japan.”

Image supplied by Mount St Benedict College.

Beyond improving students speaking, listening and comprehension skills, cultural immersion trips like this foster cultural understanding, confidence, and academic growth.

Reflecting on the visit College Principal, Michael Hanratty, said: “It was with joy that we welcomed back to the College students and staff from our sister school. We were all enriched by the cultural exchange.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic when international travel was limited, the Languages Faculty at Bennies maintained connections with Seiwa College but celebrated the recommencement of the immersion trips and the positive impact on student learning and engagement.

Through these programs, students develop empathy and cultural understanding, which helps prepare them to navigate an increasingly diverse and interconnected world.

The friendships that were formed will continue and many of the students who hosted will see their partners again when they participate in a Learning Tour to Japan later this year.

This article was published in the April 2024 edition of The Good Oil.

Image supplied by Mount St Benedict College.