Teaching chocolate history in Japan

La Trobe University historian Dr Emma Robertson teaches an intensive subject at Akita International University, Japan.

La Trobe University historian Dr Emma Robertson has travelled to Japan to teach a two-week intensive subject at Akita International University, a La Trobe University partner, as part of their global studies program.

Her subject focused on the social history of chocolate and how it functions as a global commodity. It covered ancient consumption, industrialisation and adulteration, labour relations from cocoa farms to 'garden' factories, and marketing. The subject was taught in a five-session intensive format.

"Teaching a subject at Akita International University was a rewarding experience, and I found the students interested and engaged," says Dr Robertson, who lectures in social and cultural history at the Bendigo campus. "The students told me about the Japanese experience of chocolate, and I got some great feedback from them."

"A few of them said they wished it could last the entire semester, it was unlike any other subject they experienced."

Dr Robertson's class had thirteen enrolled students from across the academic levels. It was taught in English, which they all spoke as a second language, and students had to give an oral presentation as part of their assessment.

Dr Robertson also used the opportunity to meet with her academic counterparts at Akita International University and view the education system in Japan. She met with La Trobe University exchange students, as well as Akita University students who will soon be travelling to La Trobe on exchange next year.

"Akita University reminds me quite a lot of the Bendigo campus," says Dr Robertson. "It's a rural community and has a good feel about it.  It was really interesting to see how the university subjects are taught and how the students are learning in Japan."

Funding for Dr Robertson's trip was provided by Akita International University and the exchange was organised through La Trobe Asia.

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