Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Established 1885

The Washburn Review

Washburn welcomes 19 international students for the spring exchange program

Heidi Staerkel, associate director of International House welcomes one of the exchange students, Wakana Irie, sophomore culture studies major. Irie shared her experience so far at Washburn as fun and exciting.
(Stuti Khadka)

The International House invited 19 Japanese students to campus on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2024 for a three week exchange program. Of the students, 16 of them came from Fukuoka University and three came from Chiba University of Commerce.

The students were given campus tours in their first week at Washburn and were encouraged to watch upcoming basketball games on campus and visit historical places in Topeka.

Heidi Staerkel, associate director for international programs, discusses what the students are going to do while visiting Topeka.

“This Saturday, we will go to the capitol and the old prairie town,” Staerkel said. “They can experience the culture and especially focus on English pronunciation, listening and speaking.”

The students will have shadow days on Thursday and next Wednesday where they will attend classes with Washburn students. Students who want to participate in shadow days and take visiting students to their classes can apply on a google form. Visiting students will be taken to different classes throughout the morning.

Staerkel focuses on giving the visiting students a good idea of what the classroom environment is like.

“Going to their classes…I think will be different from a Japanese university because here, the professors and students interact a lot or students interact with each other so not just sitting and listening to the professor,” Staerkel said.

The visiting students will be involved in a three credit hour program as part of Washburn’s Intensive English Program. The exchange program mainly focuses on studying English and experiencing American culture. Since the students are at Washburn for three weeks, they have their own course that is not part of Washburn’s regular semester courses.

“Since the time is much shorter, the teachers can really focus on speaking and listening and helping them develop those skills that they really want to improve,” Staerkel said. “I think we are able to be a little more flexible to what the students want to improve.”

Wakana Irie, sophomore culture studies, is a student leader at Fukuoka University. She shares her experience at Washburn so far.

“Firstly, I was so amazed at the very great facilities,” Irie said. “The people are very kind. Yesterday, I didn’t know how to use a washing machine, so a student in the dormitory asked me if I needed any help, and they [helped] us!”

Washburn is accommodating the students at Lincoln Hall where they will spend their time during the course of the program.The residence halls at Washburn were an adjustment for Irie.

“There are not a lot of dormitories but there is an international dormitory for exchange and international students,” Irie said. “The big difference is that there is no dormitory on campus in my university, so it’s out of campus.”

Fukuoka University is one of Washburn’s longest exchange program partners, which started in 1980. Chiba University of Commerce has also been a partner with Washburn for 10 years.

“I was amazed at the history because I was checking the website of my university and then watched a list of the history of the international department,” Irie said. “There are so many universities and educational institutions [that now] make agreements with my university, but the first university was Washburn.”

The last group to come on exchange was right before the COVID-19 pandemic. The group that came in the spring of 2020 was just returning home before the world shut down.

“…his is an extra special group, because we are restarting that exchange program,” Staerkel said. “We are especially happy that they are here.”

The International House is planning future events which will help the exchange students learn and experience diverse cultures.

Check out wu_studentmedia on Instagram for a video highlighting the night.

Edited by Morgan Albrecht and Jeremy Ford

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Stuti Khadka
Stuti Khadka, Editor
Hey, I am Stuti! I am a freshman psychology and nursing major. I am a copy editor and content creator at Student Media where I write stories on campus events and meet people with their unique life experiences. After graduation, I plan on working in hospitals and contributing myself to the medical community and perhaps someday I hope on publishing my own book filled with small stories.
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