Tag: study abroad programs

Tight-knit campus, diversity a draw for visiting Japanese students

Arisa Yanagimoto, Manami Takahashi, and Mika Ohara pose for a photo in the Mudd Library.
Japanese students (from left) Arisa Yanagimoto, Manami Takahashi, and Mika Ohara pose for a photo in the Mudd Library. Waseda University in Tokyo has been sending students to Lawrence since 2002. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

In the spirit of International Education Week (Nov. 18-22), Lawrence University is celebrating the amazing contributions of its many international students. This year, that includes three students who are here from Waseda University in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.

The Waseda study abroad program has been sending students to Lawrence since 2002.

The students here this year are Mika Ohara, a sophomore from Tokyo; Manami Takahashi, a junior from Saitama; Arisa Yanagimoto, a sophomore from Tokyo. As their first term at Lawrence closes, we catch up with them to learn more about their experience with the program.

Small class sizes, residential living and a diverse student body drew the Waseda students to Lawrence.

“The English department here is more diverse,” says Takahashi, who studies old Japanese literature. “You can talk with people from other countries. People who have different cultures and living styles are so important.”

Ohara said she loves living amongst students from so many different backgrounds.

“There are a lot of international students from many countries,” Ohara said, “and we live on the same campus so we can get together on the weekends and cook something and make relationships.”

Above all, sharpening their English language skills is a primary goal for all three visiting students. Lawrence belongs to a group of one-year programs at Waseda called Customized Study-Language Focused programs, or CS-L, making it an ideal destination for Waseda students looking to improve their English. During fall term, the group takes specialized language classes, including English in the American University, and a modified version of Freshman Studies that makes the works more accessible to non-native speakers.

The Waseda staff at Lawrence is integral to the students’ success. Cecile Despres-Berry is the director of ESL and the Waseda Program. While she teaches classes, Despres-Berry also is an ever-present support system for the visiting students.

“One of the goals is to add extra layers of support in order to help them integrate into the campus more quickly, so they can find out about organizations and make friends and do all of those things within the 10 months they’re here,” Despres-Berry said.

The students quickly reap the benefits of that support system.

“They make huge gains in their language abilities and confidence in English,” Despres-Berry said. “Depending on what they’re interested in, they make huge gains in their academic area.”

Changing lives on campus

The lasting impressions don’t stop with academics. Historically, Waseda students form relationships with Lawrence students that continue long after they leave. That could have something to do with Lawrentians’ willingness to get involved with the program by becoming tutors, mentors, and roommates.

The benefits of hosting Waseda students extend to all corners of life on campus.

“Our tutors who are interested in working with language learners can benefit,” Despres-Berry said. “Students who are interested in studying Japanese have a group of students who they can learn from. They can be roommates. We have cultural programming. They’ve joined our varsity teams. They’ve really been a part of the campus.”

When asked about their goals for the rest of the year at Lawrence, Ohara, Takahashi, and Yanagimoto all look forward to making more friends. They are enjoying the small, close-knit makeup of the Lawrence community.

“Waseda has many students so it’s difficult to get along with many people,” Yanagimoto said. “Here all the students live on the campus, and the community is very small and close, so I’m going to get along with many people and we’ll know about each other deeply.”

Lawrence students interested in studying in Japan also have an option to sign up for a study abroad experience at Waseda. Options include a full year of study or a partial year. For information, contact the Off-Campus Programs office.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Junior Katie Blackburn Awarded Fulbright-Hays Scholarship for Field Studies Program in China

Just about the time most Lawrence University students head for home this summer, Katie Blackburn will be returning to school — in China — as both a student and a teacher.

Blackburn, a junior from Brookfield, will spend much of her summer in China as the recipient of a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship for the 2013 Associated Colleges in China (ACC) Summer Field Studies Program.

Katie Blackburn ’14

Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the Fulbright-Hays Group Program Abroad seeks to strengthen foreign language expertise through advanced overseas study and research opportunities and by providing experiences and resources that enabling educators to strengthen their international teaching.

Beginning June 14, Blackburn will spend seven weeks in China, including the first three at Beijing’s Minzu University, taking classes focused on Chinese language and the country’s educational system since the 1978 reformation.

Following her classroom work, Blackburn will spend two weeks working with third- and fourth-grade students in rural Henan and Hunan provinces at academic-based day camps.

“I’m told this will be very rural China,” said Blackburn, who is majoring in linguistics and Chinese language and literature. “We may be the only Americans these students will ever see in their lives, so we want to make sure we leave a positive impression.  Part of the mission of the Fulbright-Hays program is to serve as informal cultural ambassadors.”

Blackburn said she was encouraged to teach subject matter she was personally interested at the day camps. Among the topics she plans to cover with her students are knot tying, constellations, and as an ice-breaking activity, American camp games she played herself when she was younger.

The program also includes a week-long academic conference Blackburn will attend in Fujian province before returning for a week in Beijing.

“I’m looking forward to gaining a better understanding of the Chinese education system as a whole, especially the rural system, which I’m sure differs greatly from the urban education environment,” said Blackburn.  “I hope to improve my Chinese language skills as well. As China increasingly becomes a global power, especially economically, I think it will be all the more important to be able to communicate in their language.”

Ruth Lunt, associate dean of the faculty, associate professor of German and one of Blackburn’s academic advisors, said Blackburn is “passionate” about all things Chinese.

“The Field Studies program will give Katie the opportunity to immerse herself further in the language and culture,” said Lunt.

The scholarship will send Blackburn to China for the second time in less than year. She spent the 2012 fall term in Beijing on the ACC study-abroad program.

“It’s such a completely different world than anything I had ever been exposed to,” Blackburn said of her first experience in China. “You walk down the street in Beijing as a tall, white American girl and everyone notices you. And they really notice you if you can speak their language.”

After studying Spanish in middle school and French in high school, she decided to tackle Chinese as a Lawrence freshman.

“It just seemed like a good challenge,” said Blackburn, who had to pass an interview conducted entirely in Chinese and write a paper in Chinese to qualify for the Fulbright-Hays Scholarship.  “I was looking for something more out of the ordinary. Chinese is so completely different than Western languages.”

After completing her senior year next year, Blackburn plans to pursue her teacher certification in Chinese and English as a Second Language with the hope of eventually teaching at the high school level.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to go back to China and get an in-depth look at how their education system operates,” said Blackburn.  “I can master the language, but this scholarship will provide insights I would never get from sitting in a classroom.”

The Fulbright-Hays Scholarship covers Blackburn’s round-trip transportation, lodging, tuition, books and some meals. The Department of Education awarded 12 Fulbright-Hays Scholarships to China this year.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.