Accompanied by claps and cheers, the students crossed the Hudson Hall stage one-by-one to receive their certificates.
For these 117 students in the 29th class of American Studies Program at Willamette University/TIUA, the certificates signified more than the culmination of the 10 months they’d spent at Willamette. The pieces of paper also represented how the university, Salem and America had changed them — and how the students, in turn, had left an enduring imprint on the communities they called home for a while.
The students had improved their English language skills, taken College of Liberal Arts classes and explored American culture. Beyond their studies, they immersed themselves in the Willamette and local communities by participating in student clubs, intramurals, social events and community service. Together, they contributed over 5,800 hours of service via Take a Break, Explore Japan Day Camp and other opportunities.
The closing ceremony on Dec. 15 celebrated such impressive achievements and contributions. As Jack Wellman ‘18, president of ASWU, noted during his remarks, “You are all incredible members of this community, and we are so lucky to have you here.”
Other speakers, including President Steve Thorsett, Consul General of Japan Kojiro Uchiyama, and Tokyo International University and TIUA President Hiroshi Takahashi, also applauded the ASP students for helping further intercultural communication and understanding.
“The basis of good relations between countries is the connections that people make at the grassroots level,” said Uchiyama, who urged the ASP students to continue to “act as a bridge of understanding and friendship between Japan and the U.S.”
Takuma Mimura, an ASWU senator and the ASP representative to the student government, noted the difficulties of adjusting to living in a country with a different language and culture. But, thanks to the welcoming environment at Willamette and in Salem, he said, “We have grown in every aspect in the American Studies Program. We thank everyone for their support.”
After the ceremony, the students headed to Cat Cavern for a special dinner. The next day, they began their long journey home — as Willamette University alumni and global citizens and ambassadors.