Earlier this month, the Winter English Program students left Northwestern to head home and start their last semester of high school. Usually, this would be the last time NW students are able to interact with exchange students from Japan. But this year, there is even more opportunity to interact with people whose culture is quite a bit different than here, a small-town community.
For the first year, NW is starting its American Culture and Language Program. The program is directed by associate dean for intercultural development, Kevin McMahan. ACLP will last for five weeks and hosts students from NW’s sister college, Keiwa College. Keiwa College is in Shibata City, Japan, and the trip is over 20 hours of flight time. There were six students that took the long journey over endless ocean to endless cornfields. The five women are living in Fern while the one man is living in Hospers Hall. NW’s campus will be a bit of a difference for these students who come from a college campus of 700 students.
ACLP differs from the WEP in a few ways. The first is the amount of time they will spend here. The WEP is only three weeks compared to the five that the ACLP students have in the U.S. Another is the fact that the WEP students are high school seniors, while the ACLP students are college age. Furthermore, the number of students is less than half of the amount as the WEP hosts 15 compared to the ACLP’s six.
Yet, this new program has been in the making for almost as long as the WEP was. The idea of all of this stemmed from Keiwa College’s first president, Dr. Kitagaki, and former NW theology professor, Dr. Lyle VanderWerrf. VanderWerrf was also the original creator of the summer institute that eventually turned into the WEP. Kitagaki and VanderWerrf first spoke of a program like ACLP over 25 years ago.
“This program will fulfill a longtime dream of these two men,” said Kristyn Howe, daughter of VanderWerrf and English teacher for the WEP.
Four years ago, 10 people consisting of NW staff, local businesses and Trinity Reformed Church went to Japan. They were hosted for several days and came back with the confidence that this program could be accomplished
Now finally in progress, the program started Feb. 16 and will go through March 20. The dates are intentionally over spring break because the students will each pair off in teams of two to be a part of different spring service partnerships. The pairs will travel to the Coldwater Foundation in Grand Marias, Minnesota; Youthfront Camp in Kansas City, Kansas; and Hope for Opelousas Ministries in Opelousas, Las Angeles. Each student was allowed to state their opinions on the places they would like to travel, but McMahan ultimately made the decision.
But SSPs are not the only part of these students’ journeys while in the U.S. Every morning the students will attend classes. In total, they will do about 10 class observations. This is quite a bit more than the two that the WEP students participated in. They will also take trips prior to their SSP to places like Sioux City or to take part in fun activities like ice skating. Since Iowa is a bit different than their usual city landscape, the students will also take the time to visit two different farms around the area.
Thus, in this way, it does not differ much from the content of the WEP nor its purpose: to share a bit of American culture with students from Japan. This is an incredible opportunity for them and for NW’s student body to take part in teaching about their culture and learning about a culture they may not be familiar with.
“We are looking forward to getting to know these students,” said Carrie Anderson, ACLP program coordinator, “We encourage the campus to welcome them as well.”