The lecture will focus on the impact of the ongoing pandemic on international students in Japan and solutions offered by local civil society groups. As universities and governments are generally considered responsible for providing for international students’ wellbeing, there has been insufficient attention to alternative support providers, such as non-profit organisations (NPOs), peer support groups, university clubs and circles, international friendship associations and other non-profit entities, collectively called international student support organisations (ISSOs). This study uses interviews with international students enrolled at Japanese universities (staying inside the country and stranded abroad during the pandemic), volunteers and staff at ISSOs, and observation of online and in-person events for international students to examine the civil society response to challenges faced by international students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lecture discusses common issues experienced by international students such as perceived insufficiency of university support, inability to travel to the study destination, instances of xenophobia, loneliness and psychological distress. The ISSOs responded to those challenges by adapting their support mechanisms and raising public awareness of the problems faced by international students and migrants in general. The lecture will also show the fluidity of the immigration status of some international students resulting in their precarity and highlight how recent developments related to COVID vaccination rollout are affecting ISSOs’ activities.
Polina Ivanova is a visiting researcher at the Institute of International Relations and Area Studies of Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto, Japan) and a lecturer at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from Ritsumeikan University. Her research interests lie in the areas of civil society, migration, human security, and international education. Her doctoral research examined thirty civil society organisations supporting international students in the Kansai area of Japan and their contribution to social capital formation in local communities. In addition, she participated in three collaborative projects in Japan, Australia, and the United States. Based on this work, Polina published six peer-reviewed articles and presented her findings at several academic conferences and workshops in Japan, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and the United States. Her recent projects focus on volunteer organisations involved with international students in Australia, international students’ loneliness in the United States and Japan, and civil society response to the pandemic in Japan, Australia, and the United States in the context of international student support.
The lecture will be conducted via Zoom. You are kindly requested to register with Zoom in advance: