On a chilly Saturday morning in early October, the smell of sweet rice rolls and potstickers filled a tiny basement as students buzzed around the room, wrapping each other in traditional kimonos and shouting words in Japanese.
About fifty American and Japanese students gathered in the basement of the Lory Apartments to participate in a Japanese language camp, a cultural event hosted by the Japanese Student Association.
â€œIt is important to introduce Japanese culture to students through fun activities and to let them practice their Japanese in a non-threatening, non-classroom environment,â€ said Masako Beecken, a Japanese language instructor at Colorado State University.
Aside from helping American students perfect their Japanese, programs like the language camp aim to help Japanese exchange students meet new people and adjust to their new surroundings, Beecken said.
According to the Office of International Programs, CSU enrolls about 900 students from almost 100 countries, including Japan. The universityâ€™s Institutional Research website shows that, for the fall semester 2010, CSU enrolled 1,040 international students. Countries with the largest number of exchange program students are:
- Saudi Arabia, 210,
- China, 172,
- India, 92,
- South Korea, 66,
- Kuwait, 40, and,
- Libya, 40.
CSUâ€™s international program holds recruitment fairs, collaborating with China, Vietnam, Mexico, Germany, India, Russia, New Zealand and the Netherlands to bring students to CSU. Agreements with foreign universities also help CSU recruit international students.
â€œIt enriches our community,â€ said Lisa Pappas, the assistant director of International Student and Scholar Services. â€œThrough international programs we get to gain perspective, benefit ourselves, the university and countries abroad.â€
Yohei Takano, the president of the Japanese Student Association and a graduate student studying atmospheric science, came to CSU through an exchange program from his home university in Niigata, Japan.
â€œI just wanted to come somewhere where there arenâ€™t many Japanese students,â€ Takano said. â€œThe first year I was here I didnâ€™t have too much culture shock but a little later I got a little depressed from the adjustment.â€
In order to help international students adjust, CSU offers programs like Friday Afternoon Club and the international connections brown bag lunch series.
Friday Afternoon Club, a tradition that has continued for almost 20 years at CSU, is a weekly potluck dinner at CSUâ€™s international house. The dinner aims to bring students together to learn about Fort Collinsâ€™ international community, special activities and volunteer opportunities.
The international connections brown bag lunch series is a weekly cultural presentation given by a CSU student or Fort Collins resident.
Abdullah Hadi Alyami, a junior business major from Saudi Arabia, credits programs like these for helping him adapt to life in Fort Collins.
â€œWhen I first came here it was a huge difference because in Saudi we didnâ€™t hang out with other genders. Men usually just hung out with each other,â€ Alyami said. â€œItâ€™s more open-minded here.â€
Originally an English major, Alyami knew the language but had a hard time communicating with Americans due to cultural differences.
â€œWhat we may think is funny in Saudi might not be funny here,â€ Alyami said. â€œI had American roommates so I stayed with them a lot and hung out with them a lot so I could learn how to communicate.â€
Pappas stressed the importance of helping students adjust to their new lives.
â€œThe service that we provide is to first help them get to the university and then assist them as they acculturate to their lives at CSU and in Fort Collins,â€ Pappas said.
City Council beat reporter Erin Udell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.