March 30, 2015 at 1:40 pm

OPIE Participates in Chubu University Exchange Program

By Tetyana Dovbnya
OPIE and College of Arts & Sciences International Student Adviser

One of the oldest and most successful cultural and academic exchanges the Ohio Program of Intensive English has established is definitely with the Chubu University in Japan. It started in 1973, and has been fruitful since then.

Twice a year, a group of Chubu University students comes to study in OPIE for four months. Most of the students who come on exchange to OPIE are either English majors or International Culture.

Amanda Oyakawa, OPIE Special Programs Assistant, is helping with the current group of 32 students, ranging from 18 to 20 years old, who arrived to Athens in early March. She enjoys working with the Chubu students immensely and comments that the program is intensive, dynamic, and rich in various experiences for the students.

Sharing exchange experiences (from left): Amanda Oyakawa, Tetyana Dovbnya, Miyu Hoshino, Yugo Naito, and Minami Kataoka

Sharing exchange experiences (from left): Amanda Oyakawa, Tetyana Dovbnya, Miyu Hoshino, Yugo Naito, and Minami Kataoka

The program of the exchange comprises five classes and a great variety of out-of-class activities. First of all, OPIE English Fluency class at OPIE gives the Chubu students an opportunity to learn academic English – a prior aim of their visit. Communications 1030 class provides a unique setting for learning public speaking with having half Japanese/half domestic students in the class. Communications Support class is specifically created by OIPIE to give the Chubu students extra help preparing to the regular Communications class to be able to interact effectively with American students. Of course, this exchange would not be as successful and enjoyable without a Sports class, e.g. disc golf, jogging, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, etc.

Finally, American Experience class grants the Chubu students a valuable opportunity to visit East Elementary School regularly. There, they share Japanese culture with the partners from the first grade, informally called “buddies.” Together, they engage in a variety of cultural educational activities, mutually enriching and eye-opening. Just to name a few, the Chubu students teach American students the art of origami, or writing Japanese characters. In return, American students teach their Japanese buddies crafts with candy, the skills of jack-of-lantern carving (the fall group), and read their favorite books in English. Additionally, Japanese students practice their English with the Conversation Partners and often attend International Conversation Hours. Chubu exchange students also go on cultural trips to Washington, D.C., Columbus State House, Air Force Museum in Dayton, Amish Country, and can also choose to go on some private trips to Niagara Falls and New York City.

What makes this experience so valuable for the Chubu students is not only the enjoyment of newness but also the challenges under way. For example, public speaking is a new concept to the Japanese students. The COMS 1030 class tends to be difficult since the students are not used to a fast pace of a class, taught by a native-speaker of English. Participating in class is novel too since the class culture is very different in Japan, where students mostly “sit, listen, and take notes.” Therefore, the Chubu students take the COMS support class, where they prepare to collaborate with native speakers, and go over some U.S.-specific classroom culture rules. Although this exchange program keeps everybody busy, Oyakawa says that “the Japanese students are fun to work with because they have good energy and humor around them.” She adds that the students are diligent, very studious, and honest. Some exciting aspects of her job are learning the nuances of Japanese culture firsthand, and of course making friendships, which continue after the formal exchange.

Interviewing three participants of the current exchange gave me insight into the Japanese students’ perceptions of the American experience. They all enjoy living and studying here, and they highlight the value of this exchange for their future. For example, Miyu Hoshino, who studies International Relations and Law at Chubu University, says she came to learn English and meet a lot of international people, which she does through actively participating in various events at Ohio University. She is excited about being able to read books in English now. Since she lives with her parents in Japan, she loves living with a roommate in a dorm here. “She is like a sister to me,” says Hoshino, describing her roommate from Botswana, a grad student at Ohio University. She further notes that they are very different, being an early bird herself with her roommate being a night owl, but it only makes sharing a room more interesting. For example, Hoshino wakes her roommate up when she oversleeps. On the other hand, her roommate covers her with an extra blanket when she sees her being cold at night.

Yugo Naito, a freshman Business major in Japan, came to Athens to make friends and improve his English, and he willingly shares his joy over the experience at Ohio University. He specifically values being able to speak one’s mind and express opinions in class. He mentions that when in school he did not like English; however, it changed once he started his program at Chubu University. Since then, English has become one of his passions. Naito comments on some major differences in communication style that he noticed, such as greeting, hugging, shaking hands, and simply being friendly. He says that in Japan people tend to be more distant and bow instead. He participates in sports and loves spending time in the Ping Center. He finds Ping very spacious and a great place for hanging out with friends. Naito, along with other Chubu students, tried rock climbing, and was very impressed. He also gladly talks about his living arrangement with an American student, a Music major at OHIO, “a friendly and fun guy,” with whom they sometimes go for dinner and spend time together.

Minami Kataoka, a Spanish and International Culture major in Japan, came to study the culture and compare the two countries. She also came to meet people who speak Spanish, whom she can find in the Modern Languages Department in particular. She likes American food and the fact that she can make it herself, for instance, a hotdog. Kataoka and her friends from Chubu note that the thing they find “strange” in Ohio is the frequently changing weather. She loves the communications class and meeting with her conversation partners.

Among the biggest differences in educational systems of Japan and the United States that the students comment on are the classroom sizes, and atmosphere. In Japan, the classes tend to have more students; hence, they often do not have an opportunity to speak up in class and communicate as much as they can here. Some classes are so lecture-heavy that “it is easy to fall asleep,” laughs one student. In contrast, in the U.S., the classes are dynamic, stimulating, and full of an exchange of ideas. The students have three more months to explore the American culture, and they will definitely have a lot more stories to share with us by the end of their exchange.

OPIE welcomes Faculty, Staff, and Students to Events

  • Wednesday, April 1, 11 a.m.- noon, 65 N. Court St.: Athens Historical Society offers tour of the Athens Historical Museum. Come see how people lived over 100 years ago!
  • Wednesday, April 1, 12:30-1:30 p.m., First Presbyterian Church (corner of Court and Washington street): OPIE Baking Club
  • Wednesday, April 1, 2-2:55 p.m., Morton 201: OPIE Lecture Series—Jacob Okumu (OMSAR) on non-verbal communication

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