Cheers, claps and heartfelt congratulations rang throughout Hudson Hall. In a closing ceremony for 117 Tokyo International University students in the American Studies Program Class of 2018, audience members demonstrated sincere appreciation for the undergraduates who had made such a positive difference to the Willamette and Salem communities.
Several special guests — including President Steve Thorsett, Provost Carol Long, Consul General of Japan Takashi Teraoka and Tokyo International University and TIUA President Hiroshi Takahashi — honored this 30th class of students to enroll in the ASP run by Willamette University and TIUA.
In February, the TIU students stepped outside of their comfort zones to explore the culture and language of a different country. Over the next 10 months, they improved their English language skills, made friends on campus, took College of Liberal Arts classes and participated in a host of cocurricular activities.
For those who had never been to the United States before, the adventure proved both thrilling and a little overwhelming. They found a wealth of assistance and encouragement from TIUA professors and staff, as well as other members of the Willamette community.
“I’m sure many of us were nervous — could we make American friends and take American classes?” said Mai Hiwatashi, who served as an ASP representative on ASWU, Willamette’s student government. “We were supported by so many people — professors, tutors, TIUA staff and more — and we’re grateful for everything you did.”
Taiga Hakoyama, the other ASP representative on ASWU, said he clearly recalled his first day on campus. “I was very excited about beginning my new life at Willamette,” he said. Audience members burst into sympathetic laughter as he then recounted his shock at discovering how much homework American students received.
Yet, Hakoyama persevered, making great progress in his English speaking skills and other academic pursuits. For such academic excellence, as well as his commitment to cocurricular activities and his unfailingly positive attitude, Hakoyama received a special TIUA award for Most Outstanding Student. Another 13 students were recognized with awards for academic achievement and excellence, inspirational efforts and contributions to the Willamette/ASP community.
Several speakers applauded the ASP students for such contributions, particularly in helping further intercultural awareness and appreciation. As Provost Long remarked, “There’s never been a more important time in the world for us to improve intercultural understanding and build strong, stable international relations.”
President Thorsett described how ASP students had profoundly affected both the Willamette and Salem communities.
“You contributed more than 4,700 volunteer hours, took part in service projects such as Take a Break, taught Japanese language and culture, and served in leadership positions on campus,” he said. “Thank you for your friendship and for giving Willamette students, faculty and staff the experience of being part of an intercultural community.”