Walk into the lobby at Parmelee Hall on any given day of the week at 4 p.m. and you’re bound to find a group of four students gathered around a table studying.
But these aren’t your normal CSU students slaving away studying for a test-they’re students in the CSU Intensive English Program, from the University of Tokyo in Japan. These students are Hiroe Ito, Kei Kataoka, Mika Kikuchi and Ryo Samata.
In Alder Hall, students in the IEP receive 20-25 hours of instruction a week in courses at the beginning, intermediate and advanced level. The classes consist of grammar, oral communication and written communication.
Margaret Gough, the program director, said there are 14 students in each class, allowing a closer working relationship between students and teachers.
“We have a good student-to-teacher ratio,” she said. “No teacher here has less than a master’s degree.”
This year, about 125 students are enrolled in the IEP.
“The number of students enrolled varies enormously because of things like September 11 and the Asian economic impact,” Gough said. “Because we are in a global situation, the program in turn is impacted.”
Additionally, students can be conditionally admitted to CSU if they satisfy everything but the language requirement. They then can take regular courses concurrent with the IEP.
While some of the students were worried about adapting to a new culture, they said it was easy to get used to the cultural atmosphere.
“I was only kind of scared coming here, but it was also very exciting,” said Kikuchi, 20. “But, because I came with eight people I knew from my school, it was less scary.”
Some of the students took previous trips to the U.S. for programs similar to the IEP.
“I went sightseeing in Connecticut and a month-long home stay that was similar to IEP,” said Kataoka, 19. “Because I had already been in the U.S., it eased a lot of my fears.”
Samata, 19, compared the size of his university to the size of one of the buildings on campus.
“Things are a lot bigger and confusing here,” said Samata. “My university is as big as the Recreation Center.”
Even though things may be a bit intimidating, Ito, 20, said she feels much safer in Fort Collins than in Tokyo.
“Tokyo isn’t such an unsafe place,” Ito said. “But the court in Fort Collins said once a year there’s like a huge felony, and things like that are much more frequent in Tokyo.”
The students say they feel welcomed as well as safe.
“Tokyo has a huge population, unlike Fort Collins. And the people aren’t as kind, gentle and talkative as they are in United States,” Kikuchi said. “If you ask a person in Japan for directions, they will say ‘No English!’ and are very shy. But here, people are very friendly and will greet you in places like the supermarket. You don’t see that in Japan.”
But the cultural differences between the U.S. and Tokyo also present challenges. Here, the intercity public transportation system is much less comprehensive than in Japan, which students said makes it more difficult to see Colorado.
“We’ve been trying to go to Denver,” Kikuchi said. “But unlike Tokyo, there isn’t a train system.”
While students agreed that college in Japan is generally more difficult compared to a university in the U.S., some days IEP is a struggle for them.
“In a smaller class, a teacher might insist on the student producing the language orally,” said Gough. “Some students are more culturally quiet than others. In order to succeed you’ve got to produce the language.”
Gough said the IEP has an impact on the CSU campus and community at large.
“We work closely with the office of international programs, [we are] definitely concerned with diversity,” said Gough. “With challenges that the environment faces, and not just in Fort Collins, how can we really negotiate with others if we do not have an understanding of each other? The world is just too small a place for us to be isolated and unaware of challenges that affect everyone.”
Staff writer Meagan Berg can be reached at email@example.com.