Tacoma Community College is poised to bolster its educational partnership with Japan during three milestone moments later this month.
According to school officials, the campus will welcome the tenth group of exchange students from Kitakyushu, Japan; graduate the ninth group of students; and sign a memorandum of understanding allowing Tacoma Community College students to study in Japan.
Since its inception in 2008, the six-month “Global Discovery” program has allowed approximately 250 students from the University of Kitakyushu to study at Tacoma Community College. The partnership has been a success for both colleges, according to James Newman, Tacoma Community College’s Director of International Programs, and University of Kitakyushu students place their names on waiting lists and go through an extensive screening process for the opportunity to participate in the increasingly popular program.
“It changes their life,” said Newman. “The students that return are completely different individuals because of this program.”
Students are placed with local families for “homestay” experiences. They study at Tacoma Community College for two quarters, earning 30 credits which transfer directly to the University of Kitakyushu. When they sign up for the program, students pay a flat fee that covers everything from tuition and fees to trips to Mt. Rainier and Seattle Mariners games.
“One of the most memorable moments from the program occurred with one of the first groups,” said Newman. “We took them to a baseball game, and they were all holding Ichiro signs. Ichiro turned and threw them a baseball, and one of them caught it. The students were in tears!”
Akari Takahashi is one of the students who will be graduating from the exchange program. She entered it at the recommendation of a friend and because it fit in well with her plans to study English. “I made many American friends,” said Takahashi. “They took the University of Kitakyushu students everywhere, and our host families were really good.”
The partnership between the schools started because of the “Sister Cities” relationship between Tacoma and Kitakyushu, which has been in place since 1959.
A commencement and welcoming ceremony will be held on Weds., March 20 at 5:30 p.m. in the Building 11 Student Center at Tacoma Community College. Debbie Bingham of Tacoma’s Sister Cities Commission is scheduled to attend the ceremonies, and University of Kitakyushu Vice President Kenichi Kihara will sign the memorandum of understanding with Tacoma Community College President Dr. Pamela Transue.