SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -Ten students from Japan's Saga University are joining Slippery Rock University academic classes, spending time with local host families, seeing the sights of western Pennsylvania - and are taking a crash course in English.
The eight-day program, which started last Sunday and continues through Sept. 15, gives each participant the chance to better understand American culture and possibly consider enrolling in SRU or some other American university in the near future.
Yakako Ishimaru, an instructor in SRU's modern languages and cultures department, organized the "2013 SRU Cultural Immersion Program."
While only on campus for two days, the Saga students, mostly freshmen, already had vivid stories to tell of their stay.
Kanako Nishida said, "What I have liked most so far is my host family. They have a very different home from mine in Japan. I was very surprised to see a basement. There are no basements in Japan."
Miki Kitamura's most vivid recollection thus far is, "Talking with my conversation partner." Each of the visiting students is assigned a "conversation partner" who discusses the American culture and local culture - and college life. The SRU partners most often come from Ishimaru's Japanese language class. The partnership allows the Japanese student to pass along their language skills in return for the English discussions.
"She told me about the dorms on campus, and we went to an American restaurant where she told me about vegetables, meat - and cupcakes."
Soshiro Mizoue's conversation partner also made the restaurant trek where he found "the selection very different from Japan. I was really surprised," Mizoue said. "My partner told me about tipping, but I am still having difficulty in fully understanding the details." Still, he said he had no difficulty ordering - "Pepsi and a hamburger."
Daiki Yonekura's host family has already taken him on tour. "We went to Moraine State Park and walked around the lake." He said Moraine was "much larger than the lakes I see in Japan. I still want to kayak while I am here." His other highlights include, "Playing with my host family's two dogs."
The students clearly struggle with English, but spend each morning taking English as a Second Language classes. Their afternoons are spent in regular SRU classes, including English literature, logistics, physical education, Asian studies, microeconomics and others. Their final project will be a five-minute presentation based on the journals they kept during the week.
The students will visit the SRU Writing Center and other campus facilities, then spend Saturday with their host families before departing Sunday for a visit to New York City before returning to Japan.
"This is an outstanding opportunity for our students," said Hironori Hayase, professor of American literature at Saga University and one of the group's chaperons. "We hope some of them will consider enrolling at SRU in a year or two. This is a great cultural exchange and an opportunity for both sides to increase their language skills."
Ishimaru, who joined the SRU faculty in 2006, was one of Hayase's students when she studied at Saga University.
"While the program has been fun to organize, I think it is really a benefit to all of those involved. The cultural exchanges going on with our host families are outstanding, and I appreciate their efforts. The conversation partners have been very helpful, and I think they are honing their Japanese skills as they talk with their Saga partners. Once this leg of the program is completed, I hope we can organize a similar program that takes additional SRU students to Saga University," Ishimaru said.
SRU began sending students to Saga in 2012 and plans to send two others in 2014. There are currently two students enrolled at SRU from Saga University.
Saga has campuses in Honjo and Nabeshima in the southern part of Japan, about 90-minutes from Tokyo by air. Saga University began in 1884 as a normal school. It formally became Saga University in 1949 and merged with SAGA Medical School in 2003.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.