A report on the 6th Asian Youth Forum (AYF6)

Kip Cates, AYF Chair (Tottori University, Japan)


A special feature of the JALT2008 conference was the 6th Asian Youth Forum. This brought together 110 college students from 16 nations for an exciting week of academic seminars, intercultural workshops, social events and interpersonal exchanges. AYF6 was attended by 70 Asian students from the following countries: Korea, China, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Abu Dhabi.

Japan was represented by 40 students from 12 universities: Sapporo Gakuin University, Waseda University, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Keisen University, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies, Kyoto University, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, Kochi University, Kinki University, Tottori University, Miyazaki International College and the National College of Nursing.

AYF6 featured both an academic and a social program. In the academic program, students gave presentations about their countries, attended workshops on stereotypes, nationalism, and conflict resolution, and engaged in leadership training—all through the medium of English-as-an-Asian-language. The social program comprised Tokyo excursions and cultural performances as well as welcome and farewell parties. On the final day, students made post-AYF commitments to promote international understanding through projects in their home countries.

At the PAC conference, AYF students gave presentations to teachers on the following themes:

  • *Culture, Communication, International Understanding
  • * Social Issues, Global Issues: Asian Youth Speak Out!
  • * Challenges for Asian Youth in the 21st Century
  • * Language Learning in Asia: The Students’ View

The students were excited to be part of the conference, to do cultural performances at the Sunday reception, and to appear at the PAC Opening and Closing Ceremonies. A number of teachers came up afterwards to say how impressed they were seeing AYF students on stage and how much they enjoyed the AYF presentations.

Bringing together 110 students from 16 Asian countries involved an amazing amount of work, but it was all worth it to see the students in action in Tokyo. The success of AYF6 was thanks to the help, support, and encouragement of many people, groups and organizations:

  • For helping me to organize and run AYF6, I’d like to thank my JALT colleagues Peter Wanner (accommodations), Victoria Muehleisen (Tokyo team), and Todd Thorpe (video) as well as our dynamic AYF student leaders.
  • For helping with accommodation and onsite issues, I’d like to thank Rieko Matsuoka, Junko Fujii, Bob Sanderson, and their coworkers.
  • For enabling AYF to participate in JALT2008, special thanks go to Caroline Latham, Alan Mackenzie, Steve Brown, Aleda Krause, Steve Nishida, Phil McCasland, Cynthia Keith, Andrew Zitzman, Joyce Cunningham, Tadashi Ishida, Steve Herder, Marcos Benevides, and many others.
  • For helping to organize and support student delegations from their countries, I’d like to thank Thai TESOL, Korea TESOL, BELTA (Bangladesh), FEELTA (Russia), and PALT (Philippines).
  • Running an international youth conference on a shoestring budget would be impossible without the help of dozens of individuals, groups, and associations. I was truly humbled by the generosity of so many JALT officers, members, chapters and SIGs who contributed funds to help cover AYF costs. Warm thanks to all who donated, in particular the following chapters: Nara, West Tokyo, East Shikoku, Osaka, Gunma, Iwate, Shinshu; and SIGs: PALE, GALE, CUE, GILE; and individuals: Steve Brown, Barry Mateer, Stephen Ryan, Caroline Latham, Tim Murphey, Darren Lingley, Rieko Matsuoka, Matt Apple.

Organizing AYF is like the movie Field of Dreams. Although we didn’t create a baseball stadium out of a cornfield, it took a solid year of planning, sweat, and sacrifice to make the AYF dream come true. Young people throughout Asia are eager to meet, connect, and work across borders for a better future. AYF6 was a small attempt to address this. As it says in the movie, If you build it, they will come.

A heartfelt thanks, then, to everyone in JALT for their help, support and encouragement over the past year, as my team and I worked to prepare AYF6. It is truly an honor to be part of an organization which has a global vision, a dedication to our profession, and a commitment to promoting language learning, cross-cultural communication, and international understanding among young people in Asia.

The next AYF is planned for December 2009 at PAC8 in the Philippines. Those interested in getting involved should contact Kip Cates <kcates@rstu.jp>. For AYF videos, photos and information, check the following websites:

  • *AYF main website: <www.asianyouthforum.org>
  • * AYF6 website: <www.ayf6.weebly.com>
  • * AYF PAC video: <www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6fq3i14E5o>
  • * AYF6 video: <www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IjGTrzMAbg>
  • * AYF 2008 photos: <picasaweb.google.co.in/waliaclear>
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