Japanese students from Kyoto Koka Women's University are in the community for a month, working to improve their functional English speaking skills as well as to gain an understanding of a culture totally new to them.
The group of 35 students are participating in a summer English course at Buena Vista University. The intensive course lasts three hours each weekday. Many activities have been arranged for them to take part in during their free time.
The group has toured the Buena Vista County Historical Museum and Harker House in Storm Lake; Wells Blue Bunny in LeMars; and the Lewis and Clark Expedition Center in Sioux City. They also had the chance to do some mega-shopping at the mega-mall in Minneapolis and at the local Wal-Mart store.
Another highlight was visiting the Buena Vista County Fair where they not only encountered a lot of Americans to try their English out on but they encountered many animals. It was a fun - but scorching - experience for the students. They commented that an exhibition such as the local fair is not common in Japan.
BVU and Kyoto Koka Women's University has had a relationship for the past 26 years. The universities have exchanged professors short-term through those years, exchanged students during the school year and also have participated in the summer English program.
"This is a great experience for them," said Tsutomi Iwata, professor of American Literature at Koka who traveled here with the students. This is his second opportunity to travel with a summer group, the first being some 10 years ago.
For many of the students, the trip to Storm Lake is their first overseas excursion. "They are all excited," commented professor Iwata. "Buena Vista University is beautiful and the facilities are good, better than at Koko."
The girls are surprised, they said, about the meal portions received at restaurants in America. One student commented her "stomach is up" because of the large portions they are served. They enjoy the ice cream but find many of the other foods to be "too salty."
They are impressed with the people they have encountered in their visit. "People here are kind and tender," they agreed.
Professor Iwata said he has seen a change already in the students since they arrived July 14.
"The first or second day many of them were quiet and shy and didn't want to speak. Now they are beginning to be relaxed and want to show (the language) they have acquired. The term is short and we want to get the girls accustomed to English and American society. We feel when they go back to Japan, this experience will give them much motivation to study hard on their English."
Many other activities are planned for the students. BVU professor of physics Shawn Stone, director of the summer intensive English program, has also been arranging the events for the students. He hopes to take them to the Grotto and to Okoboji for a boat ride.
Thursday the students will host a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at Witter Gallery from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend and meet the students.