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Visiting Tokyo students expand language skill, world view

07.11.19
By: Ariel Wish '20
coffee hour servers

Japanese students from Tokyo's International Christian University serve treats in the St. Ed's lobby on Wednesday afternoon; one of the students, Miyu, paused in the nearby garden in her beautiful kimono. (photos by Ariel Wish '20)

“Everyone here is kind to me and helps me, even though I’m not very good at listening or speaking in English,” says Miyu, one of the eleven students from the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo, Japan, to be staying at Saint Michael's this summer for a four-week intensive study abroad program.

Focused on providing a liberal arts education through global experience, the ICU has several study abroad requirements which students must complete over their four years. While students have opportunities available to them all over the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe during their second year at the University, coming to Colchester, Vermont, is often an easy decision.

Drawn to both its long standing reputation in English language instruction as well as rigorous course offerings on topics such as social justice and culture which are taught through film, literature, and service learning, students like Miyu come to St. Mike’s “seeking opportunities for critical thinking and a broader understanding of the world around them,” says Christina Mager, assistant director of the English Language Program, a branch of the Applied Linguistics Department.

“It’s difficult, but exciting,” Miyu says about her favorite Saint Michael’s course, which focuses on “exploring life’s purposes.” In addition, she reflects that her “core” classes—encompassing skills such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking—have worked to improve her English like never before: “In Japan, I couldn’t speak very well, but here I’m able to communicate with others completely in English.”miya in kimono

All Japanese students are staying in Cashman Hall, where they reside in close proximity to the Intensive English Program (IEP) students studying on campus this summer, as well as Colombian students from Gimnasio Vermont, a bilingual high school in Colombia. “It’s an incredible opportunity for them to form new friendships that they often maintain for years after,” says Mager.

Culture, companionship, and immersion were on display on Wednesday, July 10 as community members gathered in the St. Ed’s lobby for an ICU student hosted coffee hour. With ICU students showcasing traditional Japanese attire, and the line to sample Japanese cuisine running out the door, the event proved to be a huge success. Participants even saw their names written in the Japanese print, Hiragana.

“This is the 20th year of our partnership with ICU and we are planning a big celebration next summer in appreciation for the wonderful students they send us!” Mager says enthusiastically.

There will be a second coffee house on Wednesday, July 17, this time hosted by the Colombian students from Gimnasio Vermont, a 27-year Saint Michael's partner.

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