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Japanese Students Learn About American Culture, Language at IUPUI Program

Tsuda students at the Indiana Fever game
Tsuda students at the Indiana Fever game


August 19, 2010

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When 29 college students from Tokyo stepped off a plane in Indianapolis recently, they were embarking on a unique journey of discovery.

To be sure, the students from Tsuda College will perfect their English skills in this custom language immersion program developed by the Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication (ICIC), a language and cultural training center that is part of the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

But discovering more about American culture – and perhaps even a bit more about themselves-- will also be an important part of the curriculum.

The Women in Leadership Intensive Summer Program, now in its sixteenth year at IUPUI, is designed to show young women from the all-female college in Japan what it takes to be a leader in the United States, and across cultures.

Prominent female leaders from Indianapolis speak to the students about their journey into leadership roles in the corporate and not-for-profit community.

Among them are Jane Schlegel, Indianapolis civic leader and ICIC board member and Pat Wachtel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Girls Incorporated of Indianapolis. They teamed up to discuss the role of not-for-profit organizations in American culture, which can be very different from Japan.

“They don’t have non-profits as we understand them, so philanthropy is handled in a very different way,” Wachtel said. She described the important role of charities in the United States, sharing how her organization leverages its volunteers to help empower young women in local schools and other organizations.

Wachtel, who participated in a cultural exchange with Tsuda students last year, said this can be a very difficult concept to understand, especially for non-native English speakers.
“Certainly the young women I met were really open to new experiences. They really wanted to understand American culture, and really understand the broader world,” she said.

Ayumi Manome attended last year’s program. She said the speakers left a deep impression on her. “One of the presenters said you have to prepare for leadership. You have to have a vision, and work with other people,” she said.

As part of the program, the students are required to synthesize what they learn from guest speakers and other research and develop a portfolio, presenting what they have learned to the class.

“ I studied Condileeza Rice for my presentation,” she said. “She influenced me a lot. I think if I study hard, I can do anything. I would like to join the United Nations and help other countries with poor children, or maybe I can be president of Japan.”

“That is the whole purpose of the program,” notes Wachtel. “To take a deep dive into American culture at many different levels, and in the process, become a better master of the language, in context, and in ways you wouldn’t get from studying an English textbook in Japan.”
Students live with local families during their month-long stay in Indianapolis. They also have opportunities to participate in a number of cultural activities, including attending an Indiana Fever women’s professional basketball game, visiting the Eiteljorg Museum and the Indiana State Fair. They also took an overnight trip to Chicago.

ICIC develops language and intercultural training programs for many different types of academic and professional groups. For more information about ICIC or its programs, please visit our website at