This past spring, I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of a flash mob with students from all over the world. While studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan, I heard that some of the local Japanese students wanted to put on a flash mob with the international students. To say I was excited would be an enormous understatement. Having been active in musical theater all through middle and high school and nostalgic for those days, I jumped on the opportunity. At least twice week we would meet in groups of 10-20 to learn and practice the choreography. Often we were further broken down into groups of 3 or 4 to teach each other. At first this was a real challenge because, while there was normally at least one Japanese student who spoke English well enough or one international student who spoke Japanese enough, we were all very hesitant to try to speak to each other for fear of making mistakes or being misunderstood. This didn’t last long though; dancing and laughing together made us all more relaxed and comfortable with each other. When you’re all messing up the same dance moves it’s hard to care about messing up a conjugation or particle.
Laughing and dancing together, we all became friendly quickly. Since the Asian Studies program (the one for the international students) and the International Professional Development program are housed in completely separate parts of the campus, it is likely that many of us would not have met if it weren’t for the flash mob.
One afternoon at the beginning of the semester, not long after signups for the flash mob had happened, but before rehearsals started, I met a group of Japanese students who invited me to have lunch with them sometime. As excited as I was to take them up on their offer, we ended up parting ways without getting each other’s contact information. At a school with over 10,000 students, finding a few individuals who you only know by first name is no easy feat. Luckily, I saw two of them again the next week at the first practice. Through the flash mob, we all got to know each other better and became friends. Or, as we liked to say, in reference to one of the songs we danced to, family.
Becoming friendly with the Japanese students and attending dance practices was also a great way to improve my language skills. We would talk in both Japanese and English, both clarifying what we were trying to say in our second language and correcting each other so we all learned. At practice our leaders would often give instructions in both languages as well, giving us great listening practice with a concrete way to check our understanding.
Besides all the learning, participating in the flash mob was a great experience simply because it was fun. Even though the dance practices were often exhausting, every second was worth it. We talked, we learned, we danced, we laughed, and at the end we all cried a little knowing it was over. If you ever have the chance to work with people while abroad in a fun way, I strongly encourage you to do so. Although we were all different, we truly became like family.
See also the making of video for interviews with the leaders of the flash mob and behind the scenes footage of our practices!