Asia University America Program provides cultural immersion opportunity

March 29, 2017
Asia University students at the ice rink

The Asia University America Program (AUAP) at Eastern Washington University gives students from Asia University in Tokyo, Japan, the opportunity to live and study in the United States for five months and learn about American culture.

Students in the AUAP program study English in courses designed to develop and improve their communication skills. Two cohorts of Asia University students study at Eastern from Sept.–Feb. and Feb.–July. Currently, there are 63 Asia University students at EWU, who are majoring in business, economics, law and international relations.

“Students are making an international connection, broadening their horizons and learning what it’s like to be in a new culture,” said Kristina Guilfoyle, director and faculty member of AUAP.

In addition to learning English, AUAP students are immersed into American culture. They live on campus in the residence halls, typically with American roommates. Students also participate in a pen pal exchange with elementary school students at Betz and Salnave Elementary in Cheney. Students are also encouraged to participate in other student activities, such as the hockey team or the EWU choir.

“The students create lifelong friendships here,” Guilfoyle said. “We’ve had students who really bonded with their roommates or friends they’ve made on campus.”

Asia University students on campus are also introduced to Eastern students through the campus friends program or international peer advisors.

International peer advisors help AUAP students with orientation of the EWU campus by helping them navigate the university system or teaching them how to use the bus. The campus friends program hosts events in which EWU and AUAP students can socialize.

“Eastern students learn a lot from our [AUAP] students and gain a lot of insight and exposure they may not have had,” Guilfoyle said. “The more exposure to different cultures, I think ultimately the better people we are.”

Students participating in the AUAP program at EWU have gone on to study, intern and work in other countries, such as Hong Kong, Guatemala, China and Singapore. More than 2,600 students have participated in the AUAP program at EWU since it began in 1989.

“It’s good to get out of your home environment and see another culture – you expose yourself to another way of thinking, expose yourself to another language or expose yourself to a different economic reality,” Michael Reid, student services coordinator, said.