In September, eight Japanese students participated in a Japanese language class in Chicago. The class was part of a three-week exchange student program between Ehime University in Japan and the College of Lake County (CLC). The Japanese students were impressed with CLC’s size as well as the diversity of ages and ethnic groups, with one saying, “I have found that Americans are kind and gentle, and my mentors have been very helpful.”
The eight Japanese students came to America not only to teach, but also to learn. They studied the relationship between the US and Japanese governments, and compared femininity and masculinity in the two countries as part of their American culture and history classes. Additionally, they toured Chicago-area attractions such as Millennium Park, the John Hancock Center, Michigan Avenue, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
In return, groups of CLC students and faculty have visited Japan and Ehime University five times in the last five years for three-week study trips. On the most recent trip, the Americans visited Matsuyama, the capital of Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku, and traveled to Kyoto and Tokyo. The relationship between the two schools began in 2012, funded partially by grants from the US and Japanese governments.
According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), Japan is the 8th largest source of international students to the United States. The number of undergraduate international students from Japan was 9,285 for the 2015-2016 school-year — the sixth most from any country — and spent $605 million. The US is also the preferred place for Japanese students to study. Around 19,000 Japanese students — almost a quarter of all students abroad — chose the United States as their destination. Illinois, the location of CLC, benefits enormously from these Japanese students, who spend the 5th largest amount of all international students.
Heejae Park is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Washington Young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul. He is also a student of Kyunghee University in South Korea.