CHICOPEE — Elms College signed an agreement on Nov. 29 continuing its international exchange program with the University of Kochi in Japan. The exchange relationship is celebrating its 20th year.
Harry Dumay, president of Elms College, and Takahiro Ioroi, academic vice president of the University of Kochi — one of the original faculty members involved in starting the exchange program — signed the agreement in Dumay’s office at Elms.
Every year, visiting students from Kochi spend nearly two weeks exploring life at Elms. The Kochi students stay in residence halls at Elms, study English, attend classes related to their majors, and take in local sights and cuisine. They participate in extracurricular activities — including bowling, shopping in Northampton, film screenings, and a karaoke party — that show them the fun side of American college life, and they host a Japanese festival each year to share their culture with the students of Elms.
“We want to promote international education and exchange, because never, in our global society that’s always changing, has international education and exchange been as important as it is now,” said Marco Garcia, director of International Programs at Elms.
During the visit, nearly 40 Elms students serve as ‘friendship partners’ for the Japanese students. These friendship partners participate in a three-hour training course to act as roommates, classmates, and partners in language and cultural activities.
Friendship partners are one of the most important aspects of the program, Garcia said. “As the Japanese students come in, we want them to meet a diverse group of students here, so they have a deeper understanding of American life and culture. Our students are very diverse. And that’s really important, because we are a nation of immigrants, and understanding the strength of our diversity is very important.”
In addition to Ioroi, the representatives from the University of Kochi are Dr. Joel Joos, a native of Belgium who is a professor of Japanese Cultural Studies and chair of the International Exchange Committee; and Mariko Hayashi, International Center associate.