The Willamette community has 93 new students. After arriving on Monday, Feb. 3, students from Tokyo International University (TIU) in Japan will become integrated into all aspects of the Willamette College of Liberal Arts (CLA). From now until the end of the summer semester, there are many opportunities for Willamette students to get involved in the American Studies Program (ASP).
ASP is a foreign exchange program established at Willamette University in 1989, almost 25 years after Willamette and TIU became sister schools in 1965. The establishment of the program was significant for the creation of Tokyo International University of America (TIUA), a unique educational entity aimed to help facilitate cultural exchange between members of the program and students at Willamette. TIUA’s main goal is to create opportunities for students to improve their ability to communicate across different cultures and languages.
TIUA has prepared many activities to help the ASP students integrate into the Willamette community. However, much of the programs’ success relies on participation of students already attending the CLA.
“I don’t think Willamette University students realize how great of an impact they can have on ASP students’ experiences at Willamette,” said Sarah Shinn, the associate director of ASP student life. “ASP students are coming from a different cultural background, a different language background, so to try to jump in mid-semester and speak in a language that’s their second language while meeting new people is very difficult. Take any little extra time that you can take. Maybe you’re making an intramural team and you know that there’s an ASP student living in your residence hall. Say ‘Hey, do you want to join our intramural team?’ Little things like that can make a connection. That not only makes a huge difference in a student’s experience at Willamette, but also for Willamette students who have made lifelong friends.”
One program created by TIUA to help facilitate interaction between ASP students and other students at the CLA is a dinner program held every Tuesday and Wednesday. The dinners begin on Tuesday, Feb. 18 and go on for four weeks. The program reserves a special space in Goudy with the aim for the new ASP students to get to know students already attending the CLA.
“We want as many CLA volunteers as possible to kinda just sit with them. There will be some conversation topics on the dinner table if you want to adhere to that, but a lot of times people just end up talking and it’s super fun. It’s a chance to help them acclimate to Willamette the first few weeks they’re here,” said Colin Mathews (‘21), a member of the International Peer Coach Leadership Team.
In addition to the dinner program, there are other opportunities for students of the CLA to meet ASP students throughout the semester.
“We have outings to Salem for the ASP students to learn about tipping, Jeopardy for them to learn about slang, karaoke and mini golf. As much as [CLA] students want to get involved is super encouraged,” said Mathews.
While the ASP program is more than 30 years old, there are still a few misconceptions many currently enrolled Willamette students may have about the program. One of them is that ASP students are not members of the CLA.
“Because we have a building different from the main campus, people assume that students coming from the TIU are not Willamette students,” said Masaki Shimada, director of student affairs and the TIUA leadership team. “The fact of the matter is that, for one year, they’re Willamette students.”
Another misconception about ASP is that the program is intended only to help students from TIU. In fact, a crucial part of its goal is to educate Willamette students about Japan and Japanese culture.
“In general, not only at Willamette University, but also other students in other universities in the United States, I wish as many Americans as possible gain knowledge with things about Japan…You may just say hello to an ASP student when you meet them, or you can be IPC, International Peer Coach, or IPA, International Peer Assistant, for the summer semester,” said the president of TIUA, Hiroshi Takahashi.
When speaking of his experience with the program, Matthews said: “I think it’s rewarding for Willamette students. It’s such a cool educational opportunity to experience other cultures. I don’t know many other schools that’s as hands-on as the American Studies Program.”
TIUA hopes all members of Willamette University get involved with ASP students in one way or another.
“I hope that the domestic students have a chance to engage with students from a different background… it’s a different country, different way to grow up,” said Shimada. “There are many differences, but it’s a great opportunity for learning. Don’t be afraid. Ask them questions, engage, discuss, argue. I think that’s the most important thing.”