Kate Rogers, Staff Writer
The University of Southern Maine has direct exchange programs with universities in 10 countries. This means that study abroad students can go to those schools on Maine tuition and even keep their USM scholarships. It’s an amazing opportunity. Three of the available countries are The Netherlands, Japan and Korea. However, USM does not offer classes for any of the languages spoken in these countries.
Kaoru Phillips, the Assistant Director of International Programs, was concerned about the lack of Japanese classes. When USM first established the relationship with the Kanda Gaigo University in Chiba, Japan, they did offer classes. But as soon as the agreement was made, in an unfortunate coincidence, USM discontinued the classes. “It was really tough for us to recruit students to go to Japan,” Phillips said.
Phillips originally had the idea to do some kind of Japanese workshop herself, as her first language is Japanese. However, a new idea soon took its place for students to lead instead.
Phillips is an advisor for Students Without Borders, a multicultural organization at USM. SWB is for students who are part of or just interested in the multicultural community. They do club bonding activities, fundraising and bigger events like a multicultural talent showcase and a fashion show, according to club member Michelle Ouch. She presented the idea to the students in the club, and got even more than she intended. “We had four Japanese students last semester. I suggested it, and then they also expanded it to Chinese,” Phillips said.
Last semester, fall 2017, Students without Borders hosted workshops in Japanese, Korean and Chinese. There were several success stories in just that short amount of time. An American student who was interested in Japanese took the workshop and is now going to Japan. Several Korean students took the Korean workshop and art now going to Korea.
The workshops are a really good place to start, and then being able to actually go to the country and continue to learn is an amazing learning opportunity. Phillips told a story of a student whose Japanese was very beginner before he studied abroad. “He went to Japan for four months, when he came back he was fluent. I was so surprised.” This student now wants to go back to Japan, and has been applying for programs to teach English as a second language to students in Japan. He wants to improve his teaching skills so that he can get a job there. Learning a language and studying abroad can be truly life changing.
This semester Students Without Borders are hosting Japanese again, along with Dutch and Arabic. All the workshops take place in the Glickamn library. In study room 8 on the third floor, Japanese is in Wednesday’s from 4-5 p.m., and Dutch is Tuesday’s from 1:30-2:30 p.m. In room 9 on the 5th floor, Arabic is Monday’s from 3-4 p.m. Each session is a little different and independent so interested students can join at any time, according to Phillips. There is a 1$ fee that goes toward advertising.
Mimi Maekawa is one of the students teaching Japanese. She really wants more people to come to workshops, and is happy that students want to know about Japan’s language and culture. The workshops are a learning experience for both the students learning and those teaching. “I think it’s important for me to teach Japanese in English because this experience could be good for not only my English but also Japanese,” Maekawa said. Beyond all the learning experiences, the workshops are just a really good way to make friends with similar interests, Maekawa said.
The deadline to register for study abroad is March 16th, so it’s not too late to get involved this semester. There are about 15 different study abroad opportunities offered right now, and with these student workshops on top of the language classes already offered at USM, it’s easier than ever to learn about the places you want to visit.