Once a week, The Lighthouse: Center for Exploration & Discovery at Virginia Wesleyan University holds in-person Japanese language lessons. Beginning Oct. 3, the lessons are designed to teach the Japanese language to students and faculty traveling to Japan this upcoming semester and summer.
“The Japanese language lessons were created as an informal means to prepare a small group of individuals for their upcoming experiences in Japan,” Director of Global Engagement Mandy Reinig said. “Currently, there are three faculty members participating and two to three students. The students who are participating are individuals who either will be studying abroad in Japan next semester or will be traveling on the HON 200 course to Japan during the summer of 2023.”
In 2020, VWU partnered with Lakeland University of Plymouth, Wis. to open and operate a campus in Shinjuku, Tokyo. This campus, Lakeland University Japan and Virginia Wesleyan University Global, enables Japanese students to live on the Virginia Beach campus and earn their bachelor’s degree from VWU. This also allows VWU students and faculty to travel and learn through the Tokyo campus.
According to an article published by VWU in April 2020, “This will add an increased international presence to VWU’s student body, as the University welcomes students not only from Japan, but from around the world.”
This upcoming spring, five VWU students will spend the semester studying abroad in Japan through all three of VWU’s joint programs, including two exchange programs and VWU Global Japan. Students will also be offered the opportunity to spend their first two weeks of summer, May 24 through June 7, in Japan. This summer session, open to students of any major, will be led by Reinig and the Dean of the Batten Honors College Dr. Travis Malone.
“We are going to explore how communities are dealing with global issues of gender equality, climate change and cultural development,” Malone said. “Students will get to meet other VWU Global students and interact with students from around the world.”
In order to participate in this interaction, VWU’s new Japanese language lessons are being held. Two Japanese transfer students, seniors Momo Higuchi and Moeno Sawai, are instructing the lessons. Both students are business majors who came to VWU through its partnership with Lakeland University Japan.
“We were asked by Mandy to teach the lessons. We heard that there are some [professors] and students who are going to Japan pretty soon, so she asked us if we could teach them a little bit of Japanese,” Higuchi said.
The question of who should teach the lessons was not hard to answer for Reinig.
“I have known Momo and Moeno for a while and they are always eager to assist with different projects,” Reinig said. “I knew they would have patience to work with us, know the key phrases that would be helpful for daily conversation and have been working with their friends to teach them some Japanese already.”
Higuchi and Sawai enjoy experimenting with many different methods to teach the language, whether that be through slideshow presentations, worksheets or realistic examples.
“We go over alphabet letters, how to read and the basic conversation, like greetings and how to introduce yourself,” Higuchi said.
Although the lessons are still fairly new to VWU, the impact they have had on those traveling to Japan is already noticeable.
“Picking up a new language is really difficult and requires daily practice,” Malone said. “The lessons are a good way to practice and get real experience using the language in a setting that is very kind.”
For those who are interested in traveling to Japan with VWU, a new course, Japanese Culture and Language, will be offered in the spring. The course will be worth two credits and will prepare students for a semester or summer experience in Japan.
By Carey Seay