Sister Cities, Durham Tech host Japanese students from Toyama College of Foreign Languages
Thirty-two students and two faculty from the Toyama College of Foreign Languages (TCFL) in Japan recently came to Durham for intensive English language classes.
The Toyama City Committee of Sister Cities of Durham and The Center for the Global Learner at Durham Tech Community College hosted them for three weeks in February and March. Twenty-eight families volunteered to host, including many parents of the Durham Children’s Choir.
Durham has enjoyed a Sister City relationship with Toyama since 1989 and has hosted many visitors, including ikebana arrangers, physicians and horticulturalists. TCFL contacted the Toyama committee in early 2012 as they were exploring alternative locations for their overseas study program after the tragic loss of some students studying in Christchurch, New Zealand at the time of the 2011 earthquake.
The planning process included a visit to Durham by two TCFL faculty members in March 2012, with visits to area sites and the English as a Second Language program in the Center for the Global Learner. The Durham Children’s Choir in July 2012 visited Toyama, where further discussions were held. In the fall of 2012, the Toyama committee and DTCC organized the class schedule and other activities. They provided an orientation session for the host families with information on Japanese customs, food and drink preferences and emergency procedures. RDU airport officials provided an area for a welcome ceremony and baggage assistance.
The visiting students were met by their host families at RDU on Sunday, Feb. 24, and on Monday were in the full swing of classes, studying English from 9 a.m. to 12 noon Monday through Thursdays in three rotating groups with the ESL faculty of DTCC at their downtown campus in South Bank building. Thus the students could easily explore downtown Durham and they thoroughly enjoyed the many restaurants available to them. Some observed that “there is no small in the US when it comes to food.”
Their afternoons included activities with DTCC and the Toyama Sister Cities members, including orientation to downtown Durham and the Bull City Connector, visits to DPAC, Durham Bulls ball park, Duke Center for Public Policy, Duke Lemur Center, Cedar Creek Gallery and Pottery, a traditional Japanese Tea Presentation at Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Museum of Life and Science introduction to Blue Grass music, Zumba lessons, being interviewed by journalism students from Riverside High School, a visit to Central Park School for Children, and activities with the DTCC International Club.
The students also took field trips to Raleigh and Williamsburg, Va. Evenings and weekends were spent with their host families, with participation in local events, field trips and American family life. The students commented that “the people in Durham are very kind, talkative, crazy about sports, and are proud of their city.”
A highlight was a visit by TCFL’s President Yoshida when the students shared their class time with him. In addition, President Yoshida met with Durham Mayor Bill Bell, DTCC President Bill Ingram and visited Durham Academy Middle School, whose students had sent a thousand origami cranes to TCFL as a condolence message in 2011 after the earthquake. During his visit, President Yoshida announced that they plan to make this an annual study trip.
The last two days were filled with excitement when the students participated in a ceremony with the faculty and leaders of the Center for the Global Learner, where they received certificates of completion for their study of English. Then they attended a farewell dinner hosted by the Toyama committee and Sister Cities for the students and their host families. The students expressed their appreciation to their host families with statements like “My host family are so kind and they treat us as members of their family.”
After students sang songs for their hosts, expressed their thanks to all, presented flowers to their host families, and shed many tears, they departed to pack and prepare for an early morning flight to return home, commenting all the time that they would never forget this trip and that they “had a great time in America”.