Crystal Beckman (Contributing Writer) —
The Illinois College community is benefitting once again from the Japanese exchange program, which officially began earlier this month.
Since 1986, the month-long Intercultural Exchange Program (IEP) has been a strong connection between Illinois College and Ritsumeikan University in Japan. This program has allowed IC students, staff, and surrounding families to learn more about the Japanese language and culture, said a host student.
Morgan House, an IC student, hosted one of the Japanese students in February 2013. From her experience, she learned that Japanese and American cultures are “in many ways opposite.”
“They value all life and nature and try not to be wasteful,” House said. This new perspective allowed her to look at American life differently.
This is one of the many benefits made possible by IC’s Dr. Robert Koepp and his friend from Ritsumeikan, who together created the entire exchange relationship.
Because IC and the surrounding town of Jacksonville are small communities, some individuals here may not have experienced other nationalities. This makes the exchange program a chance to learn about and interact with people from other nations.
Program Advisor Mioko Webster said that this can be especially beneficial to families with young children because they have the chance to be exposed to other cultures early in their lives.
This month-long IEP is not the only program both colleges actively participate in, said Webster. IC often sends small groups of students to Japan for similar programs.
Students and families involved in these programs gain the opportunity to build lasting relationships. This is Webster’s favorite part. The IEP will “open up your views…of your world, [and] how you look at things,” she said.
The ability to attain a more accepting world-view is one of the reasons why the exchange program is so important. Greater acceptance can lead to better communication and international relationships for the future.
To deepen these relationships, both Ritsumeikan and IC students also annually engage in semester- or year-long exchange programs. A newer addition in 2013 was the faculty exchange, when two of Ritsumeikan’s professors visited IC.
The IC community is not the only one to benefit from this exchange, however. Currently, the program allows 27 Ritsumeikan students the chance to attend courses focusing on English pronunciation and American culture at IC.
In Japan, English courses mainly concentrate on reading, writing, and grammar, according to Webster.
Kaori Murayama, a 2013 IEP student agreed, saying that reading texts and learning grammar are important parts of English courses in Japan. That is why the Japanese students take courses focusing on pronunciation at IC.
“We were taught pronunciation in the IEP class,” Murayama said. “[It] is useful!”
As for culture, there seems to be no better way to learn American culture than to live with families and participate in college life. These opportunities are not always available in other exchange programs, said Webster.
It is clear that Dr. Koepp’s goal to build a lasting relationship between colleges has paid off. And perhaps now, when IC students encounter one of the IEP students on campus, they will stop and talk—try to see life from a different perspective.