Strengthening ties with Japanese sister school

A study abroad trip unlike any before will allow SVSU students to gain an immersive experience at SVSU’s sister school Shikoku University in Tokoshima, Japan.

Students will live in Tokoshima the entire summer of 2015, a comprise between the typical two-week-long or year-long study abroad programs.

Associate Professor of Sociology Brian Thomas explained the idea for a trip of that duration was based off student preferences.

“We recognized that SVSU students don’t want to leave during the regular semester because of requirements for their major or jobs, while Japanese students do want to come then,” he said. “The idea was to design an exchange program that received students when they were interested.”

During the trip, students will live at housing units near the university and study Japanese language and culture.

Seven English credits will be available to earn and Shikoku University will be hiring a professor specifically to teach SVSU students.

According to international guest scholar and associate professor at Shikoku University Mark Fennelly, SVSU students will also have the option to participate in practical classes, such as calligraphy and sports.

“We are different from a huge university,” Fennelly said. “There are lots of clubs to get involved in and tourist places. Here, people will actively be taking care of you.”

Saginaw Valley State University and Shikoku University have a long-standing relationship and, according to Fennelly, former University President Eric Gilbertson was especially involved, visiting Japan many times.

“We wanted this agreement to be a symbol of the relationship with Gilbertson and as a way to start building a relationship with President Bachand,” he said.

As result of that relationship, students on this trip will receive focused care from Shikoku University staff and students.

“(SVSU students) will be the most important people on campus,” Fennelly said. “We really believe in SVSU’s students and … they will be very well taken care of.”

Both Thomas and Fennelly stressed the depth of experience this trip will offer students.

“Traveling overseas can be a life-changing experience,” Fennelly said. “The culture of Japan is so different, (so) having that kind of experience is huge.”

In addition, according to Thomas, this kind of trip can really stand out on a job application.

“It gives you an edge in an increasingly globalized workforce and shows you can work a diverse population,” Thomas said. “However, I also think that soon this kind of trip is just going to be normal.”

Along with taking classes, students will be in Japan for a major annual dance festival and have the chance to participate in several traditional activities.

“I’d definitely recommend doing the log-riding and indigo dyeing,” Thomas said. “It gives students an authentic experience and their traditions are very unique.”

The trip is open to students of all majors; courses meet general education requirements.

The deadline to apply is Dec. 15, and scholarships are available.

For more information, contact Mark Fennelly at [email protected].

“This trip is new,” Fennelly acknowledged. “But if students are willing to take a leap, it will be very meaningful.”

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