By Denton Josey, Features Editor
While most ACU students are gone for the summer, international students visit campus for three weeks.
Thirty Japanese students from Ibaraki Christian High School in Ibaraki, Japan, lived in University Park Apartments and attended classes. In the evening and on weekends, they took trips to see the local culture.
Dr. Harland Rall, assistant professor of foreign language, is in his second year as director of the program. Jeff Haseltine, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and assistant professor of foreign language, and Randy Voss, ICHS program sponsor and English as a Second Language teacher, both taught in Ibaraki and started the program in 1995.
“They wanted those students to have a study abroad exposure,” Rall said.
The program was created for intercultural, cross-cultural communication.
“You learn so much more when you go to the country and live in the country versus mere studying about the language and culture,” Rall said.
A highlight of the program for the Japanese students is the opportunity to interact with ACU students on a daily basis while they are learning English.
Rall said the high school students enjoyed the contact of student tutoring, and their English improved while they were in Abilene.
“The small segment of faculty that teaches the courses, plus the conversation tutors, build friendships for life, quite frankly,” Rall said.
In an effort to help others go to Japan, an endowed scholarship, the Voss-Haseltine Endowed Scholarship for Asian Studies, begins.
It will generate money to help ACU students go to Japan for language and culture or possibly even China and Korea. The scholarship would be worth $1,000 to $1,200 a year.
“When the international studies major came, we only had majors with concentrations in Europe and Latin America,” Rall said. “Beginning this year, we are officially approved to offer majors in East Asia and the Middle East. We want to help more students engage the world.”
Rall said he estimates 15 of the 30 Japanese students attending ACU were a part of this program. He said three to five students go back every summer and decide to come to ACU for college. “They like ACU as a campus, they like Abilene as a city and the people; something clicks and they want to come back,” Rall said.
Haruka Kanasumi, freshman art major from Ibaraki, Japan, is one of those students. She came in the summer of 2005 when she was 16. She said talking with American people was the most fun.
“It was very helpful to know American culture and in studying English,” she said.
Seeing Abilene for the first time was memorable for Kanasumi.
“It was my first time to come to America, so I thought this was America,” she said. “Everything was bigger than in Japan.”
Not only do the students enjoy the program but also the tutors. Sarah Martinez, graduate student in the English department from Victoria, was a tutor this summer.
“Every day we would spend one hour with the students doing conversation to help them with their English,” Martinez said.
Martinez, like the Japanese students, also visited ACU while she was still in high school and remembers thinking how cool it was to see the Japanese students around campus.
“It’s really interesting getting to know them just as people and also as people from another culture,” Martinez said. “It was definitely something that changed my perspective of people in general, not just Japanese people. There are things in common with all cultures, and it’s hard to realize until you come in contact with them.”