UMSL welcomes Japanese students from Chuo University during three-week summer program

by | Sep 3, 2019

A group of 27 freshman students from the university in Tokyo took courses in English and business and made time for sightseeing while in St. Louis.
Chuo University students

Students from Chuo University gather outside the Provincial House one afternoon last month after class. The group spent three weeks at UMSL in the first year of an exchange program between the two universities. Joining them in the photo were (front left, white shirt) Abby Naumann, a program coordinator with International Student and Scholar Services; (top left, white shirt) instructor Jerome Bollato; (top right, plaid shirt) instructor Ron Klutho; teaching assistants Amy Seidel (middle, red shirt), Brittany Henry (at right, pink shirt), Molly Motes (at right, grey shirt) and Cameron Jensen (at right, white shirt); and residential advisor Seth Huntington (at right, black shirt). (Photo by August Jennewein)

Atomu Usui and his classmates were determined to do as much as they could during their three weeks in St. Louis.

Visiting last month through an exchange program between Chuo University in Tokyo and the University of Missouri–St. Louis, the students made it to landmarks such as the Missouri History Museum and Gateway Arch. They strolled around neighborhoods including the Delmar Loop, and they went to baseball games, Six Flags and the Whitaker Music Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

They managed to fit all that in when they weren’t immersed in daily English language and business classes at UMSL.

It was a lot, but that only served to reinforce that three weeks weren’t enough.

“I don’t want to go back to my home country,” Usui said. “In St. Louis, life is very fun and interesting. I want to stay more weeks or months. It’s unfortunate I have to go back home.”

There were 27 students in all who made the trip from Chuo University in the first year of the program with UMSL.

“It’s definitely a part of UMSL Global evolving and changing,” said Abby Naumann, a program coordinator with International Student and Scholar Services who helped chaperone the group of Japanese students. “The department’s really hoping to ramp up and increase its programs and its exchanges, so hopefully, our partnership with Chuo is going to last after this, and not only can they send more students here, but maybe we’ll end up sending some students to Chuo, as well. We hope it’s the first in a new friendship.”

The first year, by all accounts, was a success.

The students – all college freshmen – lived in Oak Hall during their stay with Seth Huntington serving as their residential advisor.

The group landed in St. Louis on July 28, and the next day they began their academic work under the direction of instructors Ron Klutho and Jerome Bollato with help from student teaching assistants Brittany Henry, Cameron Jensen, Molly Motes and Amy Seidel.

The morning classes tended to be more academic with time devoted to teaching grammar and pronunciation and helping the students improve their reading and writing.

Each afternoon, the students worked in small groups, coming up with an idea for a business and developing a 15-page plan for how they would make it a reality. The groups presented their plans on the final day of class in a format similar to the television show Shark Tank.

Klutho taught in Japan earlier in his professional life before returning to the United States, where he now works full-time as the team lead for refugee services at Bilingual International. He was happy to be back in the classroom and to have the chance to work with the students.

He noted the cultural differences that at times made it challenging to get them to speak up in class, but Klutho came away impressed with their talents.

“They know a lot about technology,” he said. “The Power Point presentations they did were really good. They know the technical aspect of it. They’re very creative. As a part of their business plan, they had to come up with the name of their company and their logo, and they had some interesting and clever logos. They’re very artistic.”

The students also wowed Klutho with how well they navigated around St. Louis when they weren’t in class. Coming from Tokyo, they weren’t at all fazed by the scale of St. Louis.

Other than a three-day trip to Singapore on a class trip, Mao Murakami hadn’t been outside of Japan before, but she was ready to make the most of her experience, and she particularly enjoyed visiting the Saint Louis Zoo and the Arch.

“I had never seen such a high view,” Murakami said. “I was very impressed by the scenery.”

If there was a downside to the trip, it was that most of it took place during the break between the summer and fall semesters, so the students didn’t have as much opportunity as they would have liked to interact with UMSL students.

Naumann and Klutho hope at least a few will be inspired to return for a semester or year abroad before their finishing their degrees.

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