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Japanese students visit UNG for two weeks

Visiting Japanese students 1
Japanese students worked with UNG students to produce 8- to 10-minute videos about college life in the U.S.

A pair of trips highlight the growing connections between the University of North Georgia (UNG) and Nanzan University, UNG's partner school in Japan.

From Feb. 24 through March 9, 10 students and two faculty members from Nanzan University visited UNG's Dahlonega Campus as part of a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) project that involved online interactions between both schools' students ahead of the visit. UNG will participate in a similar study abroad this summer at Nanzan, though it will be for eight weeks.

This fall, UNG will start sending students on semester-long or academic-year exchanges at Nanzan University for the first time. Summer study abroad trips led by Dr. Tomoe Nishio, assistant professor of Japanese at UNG, in 2017 and 2018 were previously the longest trips available in UNG's partnership with Nanzan. As part of the new exchange, Nanzan will send students to UNG for a full academic year.

UNG formalized its partnership with Nanzan with an agreement signed in November 2018, a collaboration that will benefit UNG's Japanese language programs and its new Bachelor of Arts in East Asian studies.

"It is a great accomplishment to have established such a deep partnership with Nanzan University within a few years," Nishio said.

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UNG launched its Japanese studies program in 2016 thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Japan Foundation.

Nishio, assistant professor of Japanese, said the COIL model made the visit more meaningful for students from both schools. Part of that model featured the students communicating with each other via video chat and a text app for six weeks in advance of the visit to reduce anxiety and excite the students about the experience.

"The students may go through some awkward moments at first, especially during their first video chat session, but they usually become good friends by the time they meet face-to-face," Nishio said.

Josh Vaughn, a UNG senior from LaGrange, Georgia, pursuing a degree in English writing and publication, said the Skype calls helped. The in-person interactions added another dimension.

"When you're talking in person, it puts your language skills on the line a little bit more," Vaughn said. "You really find out what you know and don't know."

Daniela Leyva, a UNG junior from Flowery Branch, Georgia, pursuing a degree in Spanish and a minor in Japanese, agreed.

"When I got to talk with them in person, it was fun and scary at the same time diving right into it," Leyva said.

Visiting Japanese students 2

Ten students and two faculty members from Nanzan University visited UNG from Feb. 24 through March 9.

Once the Japanese students arrived, they participated in activities such as teaching UNG students how to make sushi; helping students in class with their Japanese speaking skills; visiting the Makita USA plant in Buford, Georgia; and making local connections for a job hunt.

UNG students helped the Nanzan students produce 8- to 10-minute videos about different aspects of college life in the U.S.

"Having a product to work on together brings them closer easily, as having a shared goal facilitates more interactions and creates a sense of community," Nishio said. "It is our hope that the whole process of collaboration motivates students even further to learn the target language and culture."

Serika Maeda, a Nanzan sophomore pursuing a degree in British and American studies, was grateful to interact with locals. Goichi Wakita, a Nanzan freshman in global liberal studies, was thankful for the friends he made at UNG.

Shiori Harada, a Nanzan sophomore pursuing a degree in British and American studies, was glad to have met her UNG counterpart online before arriving on campus. Harada was surprised at the number of people learning Japanese at UNG.

"Everybody has a passion to speak Japanese," Harada said. "They're welcoming us."

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