Japanese international students arrive at Washburn

Matthew L. Self

Washburn hosts many international students, each bringing their own unique experiences, outlooks on life and cultures with them. International students from Japan arrived at Washburn Feb. 15 to attend classes focused on American history and learning to understand the English language.

The students come from across an ocean and half a continent to the heartlands of our nation in an effort to learn more about our culture, history and language in a safe setting. The students come from Fukuoka and Chiba University of Commerce in Japan, with Fukuoka being located on the southern island of Kyushu and Chiba nestled near the center of Japan.

“I believe that it’s essential for us to have international students come to study at WU because it is mutually beneficial,” said Heidi Staerkel, coordinator of International Activities. “These students share their cultures and perspectives, and we share ours with them, which greatly enriches all our lives.”

The change in scenery comes with a change in education as well. They will be taking intensive English classes in an effort to improve their speaking, writing, reading and listening skills. Many of the students who have come here have never been to America before, much less Topeka, Kansas. Their trip to our city is certain to be an eye-opening experience, as the students themselves come from different backgrounds.

“It’s my first time coming here and my first time coming to America,” said Akito Haitohasagawa, a senior commerce major. “Topeka is a small city but Fukuoka is small as well. I want to learn more about the culture and the people while I’m here.”

The students will be sticking around Topeka for the next three weeks or so. The Chiba University students will be heading home March 8 while the Fukuoka students will be traveling to Oklahoma City, Okla., and then to Dallas, for a few more days before flying home.

“I went to Hawaii this year with my family. It’s the first time I’ve been to America and this is the first time I’ve been to Topeka,” said Shimpei Kawasaki, a sophomore electrical engineering student. “Washburn University is so much bigger than the universities in Japan. I hope to learn more about English while I’m here.”

While the students are in Topeka they will be taken to some of the local attractions such as the Capitol building, the Kansas Museum of History and a weekend trip to Kansas City. President Farley and his wife will be hosting a special reception for them. They will also be partaking in a host family weekend where they will spend the weekend living with a local family.  

The Japanese students and the International House on campus are on the lookout for students from Washburn who will volunteer to let the international students shadow them for a day, which is sure to be a new experience for both parties. If you are interested in letting one of the international students shadow you for a day, then contact the International House at (785) 670-1051 or at [email protected]

“It’s so exciting to meet the new students and get to know them,” said Heidi Staerkel. “They’re often understandably shy at first, but it amazes me how these exchange students from Fukuoka University and Chiba University of Commerce are able to improve their English skills quite a bit in three weeks as well as their understanding of U.S. culture.”

Edited by Adam White, Jada Johnson, Jason Morrison