In order to provide exchange students with the opportunity to learn and practice their conversational English with Americans, Oklahoma Christian University is currently welcoming a group of Japanese students from Ibaraki Christian University.
This year marks the 43rd year of the exchange program with Ibaraki Christian, where students from Japan participate in campus life by attending classes, living in the dorms and eating in the cafeteria alongside Oklahoma Christian students.
According to the Director of International Programs John Osborne, the purpose of the program is to provide both Oklahoma Christian and Ibaraki Christian students the opportunity with a global education.
“If you only think about the world in terms of your culture, then you have an incomplete education,” Osborne said. “We take students to study abroad and we bring the world to OC, and when we bring the world to OC, it’s a way for us to enrich the experience for all students here on campus. Even if you can’t go overseas, or study abroad, we bring the world to the university through students and partnerships like this.”
According to Osborne, he believes learning and understanding American culture can be uniquely achieved for these Japanese students while living in America.
“You can read about it or see it on a movie, but the real learning comes when you’re in the culture,” Osborne said. “The understanding about global, how people from different countries may view things, you only get the fullness of that when you’re in the culture.”
“If you look outside the U.S., there are some major issues that have to be addressed. Who’s going to speak into those issues? We need a credible Christian voice who can address the major issues of our time, and the ability to work with other people from other places is absolutely necessary in order to do that.”
Professor Gail Nash is an instructor of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) at Oklahoma Christian, and said TEFL majors are teaching the Ibaraki students three days out of the week.
“We split the group in half so there are two groups of six students,” Nash said. “The TEFL Methods class works every year with the IC short-term students. I think it is a win-win situation. The TEFL students get some very practical teaching experience, and the IC students get some fun and lively lessons. Plus, they all get to know each other better.”
Nash said an international education is valuable and important for everyone, both for the domestic students and the ones visiting from abroad.
“You can’t really understand your own country until you see it from a distance,” Nash said. “An international education teaches you about your host country as well as your home country. That makes you more knowledgeable but also more empathetic and culturally aware.”
According to TEFL major Josh Clements, meeting with the Ibaraki students has been mutually beneficial since they are able to practice their English while he practices teaching.
“I think part of the reason learning from a native speaker is valuable is because we are so familiar with the language, so we just have that understanding of it,” Clements said. “I think learning it might be challenging, but that it’s really helpful, too because it’s kind of an immersion experience. I’m learning what works and what doesn’t—what works with Japanese students specifically, or what I figure out I can teach well and what things I need to work on.”
Clements said he believes staying in one place for too long influences one’s perception of Christianity, which is why it is important to acquire a global perspective.
“My image of Christianity has always been based on the conservative Oklahoman Christianity,” Clements said. “It’s just an important reminder that we do have these brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. They have their own culture, but they’re doing the same thing and sharing Jesus’ love with others.”