Japanese students visit, learn culture
Shirayuri University students Natsumi Nagaseki, left, and Shiori Murakami from Japan prepare to take a photo of Beaumont Tower during their scavenger hunt activity on Aug. 2, 2012. The students were a part of a three-week program through the English Language Center. Julia Nagy/The State News
Ayano Ishida’s first impression of the U.S. from visiting MSU’s campus was that everything is bigger — the food, the cars and even the toilets.
“Everything is so big,” Ishida said.
Ishida is one of eight Japanese women visiting MSU’s English Language Center for three weeks from Shirayuri College.
The group of women, all about 19 or 20 years old, arrived in late July and are participating in a three-week visit to the U.S. to study English. During their visit, the English Language Center planned trips for them including Niagara Falls, Chicago and Greenfield Village.
While the women visit, Becky Swab, an instructor at the English Language Center, has coordinated lessons for the women to learn English and American culture.
Swab said when the women first arrived from Japan, they were very shy and nervous, speaking few words in English.
But after a week, the girls were more confident speaking to her and in front of the rest of their classmates and seemed to be enjoying their visit, Swab said. This is the visitors’ last week on campus.
The students started their visit by participating in a scavenger hunt across campus, where they had to take photos of their group in front of MSU landmarks such as Sparty, Beal Botanical Garden and Beaumont Tower.
Shirayuri student Shiori Umeda said one of her favorite things to see during the scavenger hunt was a squirrel.
“There is little nature at our university,” Umeda said, reading notes about her experience to the rest of her class. “I saw a squirrel for the first time. Squirrels are very, very cute.”
Swab said the things that stand out to international visitors on MSU’s campus always surprise her, and seemingly normal things are exciting and new. Many of the Shirayuri students said they thought the squirrels were very cute, but had difficulty pronouncing the word. After the lesson, Swab helped the students practice pronouncing “squirrel.”
The students also mentioned that they liked trying ice cream, which they ate on campus and at Niagara Falls.
Shirayuri student Shiori Murakami said she loves the food in America, but the portions are very large.
“I had (Sesquicentennial Swirl) ice cream,” Murakami said, commenting she particularly likes the ice cream from the Dairy Store. “The food is very big, but delicious.”
Although Swab teaches many visitors about American culture, she said she has also gotten to learn more about Japanese culture through the visit. When she taught a lesson on cooking and food, the women learned to make brownies and tacos. As food fell out of their overstuffed tacos, Swab taught the women terms such as “messy.”
After teaching the girls about cooking, Swab said her class decided to make a green Japanese drink with kale in it for her to try.
“I took a sip, and it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t my favorite; they knew immediately that I didn’t like it, and they burst out laughing,” Swab said.
She said her reaction to the green drink was similar to the reactions some of her students have when they try American foods in the Gallery at Snyder and Phillips halls.
“I like making little connections with the girls, like about squirrels or everyday things — just being playful and having fun,” Swab said.