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  • Writer's pictureGPI US

Japan Empowerment Info-Session at UCLA

To answer any burning questions for all of the Japan Empowerment applicants that missed it, we recently held an informational meeting at UCLA. What was discussed at the informational meeting? Let’s break it down!

The info-session began with our representative introducing our company and mission.

“So what is GPI US and ISA? GPI US, now in it’s fifth year, is a company based in Los Angeles. Although GPI US is still very young, we are exponentially expanding and continuously empowering today’s youth to thrive in this global world. We are a subsidiary of ISA, a company promoting intercultural experiences in global education for the past 47 years, located in Japan.”

We presented our company’s unique opportunity, the Japan Empowerment Program, for university students to partner with us to make a lasting impact on high school students in Japan. This program has been offered since 2013. Starting with just less than 10 group leaders our first year, we are now sending over 125 group leaders abroad to Japan.

So, we went in-depth about this program and explained how we look for group leaders interested in empowering and facilitating thought-provoking discussions to maximize student’s potential.

“Our group leaders help students develop important life skills such as leadership qualities, public speaking, comprehensive English communication, etc. Student Leaders will also expose Japanese high school students to broad perspectives, cross-cultural understanding and critical thinking. Group leaders will not be teaching English, but rather, helping the students understand and engage during discussion. In the efforts of our group leaders, we are able to empower Japanese students.”

Japan Summer Empowerment Program 2016 | Term 1 Group Leaders in Shibuya, Tokyo during their first weekend in Japan before heading to their first school.

We then transitioned into a time for three of our past group leaders from last year’s Empowerment Program introduce themselves and talk about their experiences.

Group Leaders – Summer 2016

Japan Emp Photo2

Kelvy Mansfield ‘18 Applied Linguistics Major Japanese Minor

 Kelvy shared about his wonderful experiences with his host families and working with the students. He feels very passionate about his involvement as a group leader and the impact he made on the students’ lives. He highlights that the experience is truly what you make of it and encourages all the applicants to be ready to get out of their comfort zone.

“This experience was life-changing for me! Even though I had been to Japan 3 times before this, this was the first time I had experienced true Japanese life by interacting with and giving to the local community. Through this program I have learned that I truly do want to work in some kind of international community that allows me to put both my knowledge of American and Japanese culture to good use. As an applied linguistics major minoring in Japanese, I was able to use a lot of the skills I had learned through my studies to positively impact the lives of Japanese students. I was able to make amazing connections and relationships with my Japanese host families as well as the students at the schools. In addition to this, I have made lifelong friendships with other group leaders who I was able to bond with throughout the course of the program. I truly recommend this program to anyone interested in education, internationalism, and Japanese culture and I cannot wait to participate in this amazing program once again!”

Japan Emp Photo3

Tiffany Le ‘17 Applied Linguistics Major

Tiffany shared her experience along with a few other group leaders’ experiences whom she had the chance of working with. She emphasized on being adaptive and flexible as the experiences varied greatly in every perspective: from group leader to group leader, host family to host family, and student to student.

“When I first started, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. When my friends asked, I would reply ‘I’m teaching English? Something about Empowerment.’ It did not really make a lot of sense until I actually started my first day. I remember my first day clearly as it was the hardest. I remember that it felt like I was pulling teeth to get the students to speak. But as time went on, I started to understand how to communicate with the students. I was able to create a close relationship with the students during breaks, which allowed them to become more comfortable and more willing to participate in discussions and activities. I would creatively add humorous twists to our activities to keep the students interested by introducing icebreakers such as one-truth-two-lies or adding different prompts for the improv presentations. I engaged students in critical thinking, discussion-based conversations, and public speaking by leading them to resourcefully use their limited English that they already know to express their own complex ideas. When the students would give a generic answer, I would steer the students to think deeper and encouraged them to add content to enrich the discussion at hand. Being a group leader can be difficult, but it is extremely rewarding. By the fifth and last day of every program, there was always a clear change in the students. Their confidence really shone through as they are able to give their speeches in front of the class and completely in English on their own. As a group leader, I am glad that I was able to make a difference in their lives.”

Japan Emp Photo4

Wendy Truong ‘19 Political Science Major

Wendy shared her experience as a first-timer in Japan with no knowledge of the Japanese language. She, like many other group leaders, could not communicate in Japanese but was able to use English and many hand gestures to communicate with her host families and students, or as she described it, “it’s like playing charades”. Nevertheless, she was able to bond with the students and her host families by engaging in cross-cultural discussions and wished that she could have spent more time with her host families.

“Prior to this program, I had never left America and coming to Japan through GPI US completely immersed me into Japanese culture. With this program, I was able to learn how to communicate ideas with students in an international setting and build on my own understanding of how other societies function. I was introduced to a healthier diet and lifestyle, ancient and respected temples, fast-paced city environments, slow-moving country life, and in my opinion, exposure to the most polite people in the world. Because of these experiences, I absorbed their practice of simplicity and used it towards interacting with the students, other group leaders, and my host families. It was truly rewarding to visibly see how the growth in students over the course of a week and knowing that there is a high potential of their lives being changed during this program. With such an eye-opening and gratifying adventure, I would extremely recommend this program to anyone interested in Japanese culture or exploring new nations!”

For more details about term dates, eligibility, how to apply, deadline, and more, please visit:


A group photo of the students with their Group Leaders and Facilitator on the last day of the Empowerment Program (The students’ faces were blurred for privacy purposes)

Thank you everyone for coming out to our informational meeting. We hope that the info-session was helpful and that you enjoyed the donuts.


Custom-made donuts from California Donuts

Written and edited by Tiffany Le and Liana Ip.


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