Ritsumeikan University (RU) has been offering a Dual Masters Degree Program since 1992 and a Dual Undergraduate Degree Program since 1994 with American University (AU) in Washington DC. As part of these collaborative efforts, a Joint Degree Program between AU and RU was established in 2018. The two universities not only partner in education but also exchange faculty members regularly.
In the Fall Semester 2021, RU invited Dr. Daniel Bernhofen from AU to give lectures in his area of expertise in international economics. We spoke with Dr. Bernhofen to learn about his teaching experience as an exchange professor at RU and interaction between AU and RU faculty.
What was your impression of teaching at RU? How did the students at RU respond to you in class compared to students of AU?
I very much enjoyed teaching at Ritsumeikan University (RU). The campus is in a beautiful location in Kyoto and I was surprised by how many international students are studying at RU. With a few exceptions, the Asian students in my class were a bit shy to speak up and interact in class. It was the US and European students who interacted more, similar to my classes at AU. Because many non-Japanese students were not allowed to travel into the country, many of my undergraduate classes were taught in a hybrid format. Many Japanese students also decided to take the class via zoom rather than face-to-face, which was a bit unfortunate. Being given the opportunity to teach international economics in Japan, I redesigned my course to draw on my research on Japanese economic history, which was fun. From the students' feedback, the students enjoyed learning both economics and some Japanese economic history.
What was the best and most memorable thing about being an AU-RU exchange professor?
The best thing for me was the privilege of living in Kyoto, right in the heart of the old capital of Japan. There were so many exciting historical places to see and visit right here in Kyoto. The Kansai region's reliable and well-connected public transportation system made travelling so easy. The different Kyoto mountain views and other Japanese landscapes are truly amazing.
What do you expect would come out of AU-RU's future exchanges?
The AU-RU faculty exchange is particularly important to support our joint degree program. I will be going back to AU with a better understanding of the environment and challenges JDP students face studying at RU and AU. Hopefully, I will become a better faculty mentor and a faculty ambassador of this Program.