By Christina Dimauro
Sacred Heart University had its first immersion program this year, welcoming four students from Kyoei University, located in Kasukabe City, Japan.
In 2015, Sacred Heart’s president, Dr. John Petillo, met with Akira Kato, president of Kyoei, to sign a contract that would begin the immersion program. The contract was a mutual partnership with the two schools and would provide the opportunity for both schools to collaborate.
“Japan as a nation started to put an emphasis on international education and getting students out into the world and studying abroad. That’s one of the reasons Kyoei University was seeking external partnership and eventually found us,” said Executive Director of Global Affairs Carrie Wojenski.
The four students from Kyoei were joined by one professor, Shingo Nahatame, and arrived on Sept. 2, where they had a two week long stay. Throughout the duration of their time here, they were able to experience the Sacred Heart campus and had the opportunity to volunteer within the community.
“They attended our English Language Institute classes and they were involved with all of our extracurricular activities offered both by the English Language Institute and Sacred Heart,” said Academic Director of the English Language Institute Alla Schlate.
One of the driving factors of Kyoei coming to the states was to enhance their second language skills.
“Japan is also interested with increasing its English language proficiency, hence why they started here with the English Language Institute,” said Wojenski.
The students had home stays with families in the surrounding area and were able to understand how different the American culture was from their own in Japan.
“They had lots and lots of questions and we had to foresee all the questions that stem from their cultural background,” said Schlate. “In a Japanese classroom you are not supposed to ask questions, you sit down and listen and be silent.”
The Japanese students volunteered at the Eat Smart MarketPlace food pantry at the Merton Center in Bridgeport.
“They went and assisted with receiving and organizing food donations, getting them ready for distribution,” said Director of Volunteer Programs, Matthew Kaye. “It provided the Japanese students an opportunity to do something that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to do in Japan.”
The students overall reaction to being in the United States and on the Sacred Heart campus seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.
“All of them were very excited to be here and all of them wanted to come back, which tells you that they really liked it,” said Schlate.
As for the future of this partnership, the students of Kyoei hope to visit Sacred Heart in January of 2017.
“Short term, we are continuing the small groups of students studying abroad, mostly education students looking to improve their language,” said Wojenski. “Long term, hopefully someday when they have students that are well versed in English, they will be able to do a study abroad program at Sacred Heart for an entire semester in academic classes.”