RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (Arkansas Tech)--Teaching English to local children and connecting with students interested in attending college in the United States will be the primary missions for seven representatives of Arkansas Tech University when they visit Japan in early August as part of a program operated by the U.S. Department of State.
But according to Brent Hogan, one of the Arkansas Tech English Language Institute instructors who will make the trip, there is much more to their journey.
It will also be a cultural exchange with the people of Ofunato, a coastal community that continues to rebuild following the March 2011 tsunami that killed almost 16,000 people in Japan.
"In order for any society to really progress, we have to keep our minds open to how other people live and adopt their best habits into our own," said Hogan. "As we go there as a group, we can learn something about their perseverance and learn from their experience. Every culture is based on family, and if we can understand that as the foundation of a society, we can build relationships off that similarity."
In addition to Hogan, other Arkansas Tech representatives scheduled to make the trip to Japan include Dr. John W. Watson, vice president for academic affairs; Yasu Onodera, director of the Arkansas Tech International and Multicultural Student Services Office (IMSSO); Lianne Thompson, assistant director of the Arkansas Tech IMSSO; Danny Eschol, international student advisor in the Arkansas Tech IMSSO; and Jill Greenwood and Kristen Musser, instructors in the Arkansas Tech English Language Institute.
Once they arrive in Japan, those seven individuals will be joined by Haley Davis and Jacob Wardlaw, Arkansas Tech students currently enrolled at Komazawa University in Japan as part of an exchange program. Davis and Wardlaw will assist the other members of the Arkansas Tech delegation in tutoring the children of Ofunato during a week-long English language camp.
Before they travel to the site of the language camp, the Arkansas Tech representatives will host a reception for Tech alumni living in Japan. They will arrive in Ofunato on Thursday, Aug. 1, and meet with the mayor. After they participate in the city's annual festival, the English language camp for children ages 4-17 will begin.
The language camp will be taught in some of the same manufactured buildings that have served as schools for the children of Ofunato since the March 2011 tsunami.
Many of the children who will attend the camp will be old enough to grasp and remember what they saw when the disaster struck.
"If they bring it up to you, they just want someone to listen to them," said Hogan. "If we're there to listen to them and give them the opportunity to communicate about what it was like, I think that is job enough for any teacher."
The project is part of the U.S. Department of State EducationUSA program.
According to its web site, EducationUSA provides "millions of international students with accurate, comprehensive and current information about how to apply to U.S. colleges and universities."
International students who choose Arkansas Tech, but have limited English skills upon arrival, have the opportunity to prepare themselves for the classroom by studying in the university's English Language Institute.
"You are helping them accomplish their goal, which is to have a university education," said Hogan. "We build up their English skills so that they can go into a university and succeed in whatever their life's goals are. If they arrive here with no English, by the end of one semester they have a decent grasp. When they come back and visit a year later and they are having full English conversations, you know that you had a part in it. That is rewarding."
(Source: Arkansas Tech)