Correction: This article was updated at 12:43 a.m. on Wednesday, September 26 to correct the spelling of Jin-ai University and to clarify that the international agreement includes students and faculty.
Six international Japanese students from Jin-ai University found themselves anxiously wandering around Cal State Fullerton earlier this month.
As participants of a two-week study abroad program, the students and professors from Jin-ai University navigated through a country vastly different from their own, meeting American students whom they said have a tendency to talk fast.
Though at first the students found engaging with Americans challenging, Matthew Hauca, lecturer of Jin-ai University, said it was a different experience for the students who aren’t used to seeing so much diversity.
“I think it’s great because where we are in Japan, we don’t see as many non-Japanese people and we don’t have exchange students coming to our campus,” Hauca said.
On Sept. 10, the students woke bright and early to attend a tour around campus, being treated to massive cookies and cupcakes that were sweeter than the regular pastries at the College of Communications.
Cal State Fullerton and Jin-ai University have an international agreement that allows Japanese students and faculty to visit the campus and participate in classes each year.
The international students sat in on Japanese courses taught at CSUF, history courses taught by Kristine Dennehy, Ph.D., and took a walk around what they called a “desert-like” arboretum.
They also had a chance to meet up with members of CSUF’s Japanese Culture Club on campus.
Jennie Calvez, CSUF student and vice president of the culture club, said despite the awkwardness of the initial encounters, she wanted to make an effort to get to know the international students even though she doesn’t speak much Japanese.
“Since I love Japanese culture, it’s special to me when a new group comes. I always make sure to learn their names and put a name to their face,” Calvez said.
During the events, the international students and culture club members casually chitchated at The Old Boys (a restaurant in Fullerton), played kickball during the picnic social and learned about Japanese and American culture.
Erika Salgado, a Japanese Culture Club member majoring in English and minoring in Japanese, was able to talk to international student Meri Maeda about Valentine’s Day in Japan.
“It’s really nice getting to talk to international (students), learning more about Japanese culture and then explaining more about American culture,” Salgado said.
The international students from Jin-ai University said they hope to take a more assertive stance while engaging with Americans, proving to themselves they can communicate confidently in English.
One of the international students, Moeno Inada, a third-year psychology major, said she wanted to practice her English so she can go beyond what she learned from textbooks.
In addition to events at CSUF, the international students visited nearby locations as well. They were given a tour around the city of Fullerton, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and a trip to Disneyland.
Two days before the international students left, they met up one last time with the culture club for a social event. Here, they were given goody bags with American products like Bath & Body Works hand sanitizers.
“By the end, I think we got closer,” Calvez said. “It’s hard to experience a lot of things in just one week. It’s really sad when they leave.”
Though the students have gone back to Japan, they still managed to make a lasting impression on students at CSUF, particularly for Salgado, who gained unforgettable experiences through the program.
“If I think back to my first year of just entering college, I didn’t think I would ever meet any Japanese people,” Salgado said. “I think it’s a really good opportunity to meet people from other cultures.”