Washburn Welcomes International Students from Japan

An iconic visit: The 32 Japanese exchange students visit the local capital building. They all look forward to exploring more of Topeka while they are here. 

Matthew L. Self

Washburn University is proud to welcome 32 exchange students from the island nation of Japan this month who have come to our campus to learn how to read, write and speak English. The students all come from two different universities in Japan: Fukuoka University and Chiba University of Commerce. All of the students are excited to be in the U.S., many of them for the first time, and hope to learn a little more about the local area while they are here. All of the students are staying at the LLC on campus.

The students are taking part in an exchange program that allows them to come to the U.S. for a month to learn the basics of English. Washburn has had an international partnership with Fukuoka University since 1980, the longest-lasting exchange program at our university and has had an agreement with Chiba University since 2014. The program is meant to give the students an opportunity to be immersed in an English-speaking environment. While studying English in Japan their primary focus was on reading and writing; they hope to learn more on how to speak fluent English while staying at Washburn by testing their abilities with other English-speaking students on campus.

Heidi Staerkel, the coordinator of student international activities at Washburn, spoke about how the program benefits the students taking part in it.

“The students want more exposure to English. They can make a lot of progress with their English during their three week stay here, which doesn’t seem like a lot of time to learn a language,” Staerkel said. “This is one of their best opportunities to learn more about English and improve their growing skills with the language.”

Four of the international students, Natsumi Ushihara, Takeru Tsuneoka, Yuki Aita and Ryota Saito, spoke in a group interview last weekend about their stay at Washburn. Each of them spoke at length about their experiences in the U.S. so far and demonstrated their skill with the English language, which is often regarded as a difficult language to learn, yet the students seemed perfectly at ease with it.

Each of the students said that their experience at Washburn was good so far, but Natsumi said that, “It is very cold in Topeka.” Their homes in Japan are much warmer than their temporary residences in Topeka.

Yuki also said, regarding her home in Japan, that, “Fukuoka is much bigger than Topeka. There are many more people there.”

Takeru joined in by saying, “My hometown is near the sea. We have a nice view and clear air. There are many cherry blossom trees in my hometown.”

Ryota spoke about their teachers as well, “The teachers here have been so kind. It’s always been difficult to speak English but everyone here is so very kind.”

The students will be at Washburn until March 10, at which point they will travel to Oklahoma City, then to Dallas, before returning to Japan on March 12. Each of the exchange students are looking to practice their English speaking skills here and meet new people, so if you see one of them be sure to give them a warm welcome to our campus.