BOZEMAN – Montana’s beautiful mountains, friendly people and sense of Bobcat community are just a few things that 10 college and university educators from throughout Japan have noticed during a 10-week development program at Montana State University.
The educators are participants in the Long-Term Education Administrators program, called LEAP, which brings the young Japanese administrators to Bozeman through the end of July for a career training program in the United States.
At MSU, LEAP participants study English at the INTERLINK International Institutes at MSU and learn about the university’s higher education and international program operations. In August, the participants will move to other U.S. universities to participate in practicum experience until mid-March.
Recently, the LEAP participants shared their experiences in Bozeman and their thoughts on higher education, modern culture and their time in the U.S.
What is your goal as you participate in the LEAP program?
Many of the administrators say their goal at MSU and in the U.S. is to become more adept at speaking English, as well as to understand the differences, and the commonalities, between higher education in the U.S. and Japan.
“My personal goal is to make native-English speakers laugh using English,” said Kojiro Naito from Kyoto University.
“I want to get a new perspective or view from my experience here in America for doing my job,” said Yoko Takizawa from Tohoku University.
Some additional goals were more specific to the participant.
Chisato Takeyama from the Japan Arts Council is a part of the sound crew for the Japan Arts Council.
“I want to make connections and see how they do art here,” she said.
Yuki Kono from Hiroshima University said she is looking to study university branding and merchandising to introduce some new ideas to her university in Japan.
What is the most interesting difference between Japanese and American universities?
The participants shared their enthusiasm for the outdoor recreation Bozeman offers on and off campus.
“On the weekend, we can go hiking easily,” said Masahiro Takanami, The University of Tokyo. “Where I live in Tokyo, I can’t go to the forests or mountains easily. Here it is easy to enjoy nature in your free time. I am really enjoying it.”
The group also noted that the overall campus environment was inviting for students.
“I feel the U.S. universities are more like a home than Japanese universities. I can feel MSU everywhere; it’s integrated into the community,” said Yuki Kono.
Takuya Yoshida from Nagoya University noted that the campus and ties to the community were notable similarities for them. “The community is welcome to walk around the university. It is the same for my university in Japan.”
One of the most notable differences, according to Mai Masunaga from Kyushu University, is that university administrators in Japan are generalists who rotate through various administrative areas, while MSU staff are specialists who excel in one area.
Tsubasa Akatsuka from Kyushu University noted that a large difference between Japan and U.S. universities is in tuition. The U.S. has in- and out-of-state tuition, while tuition at a Japan university is the same amount for every student.
Kojiro Naito, Kyoto University said university buffet-style food was very interesting and different from what Japan offers. “There are few cafeterias or restaurants in a buffet style in Japan. I really love it,” he said.
Describe the most interesting thing you’ve seen in Montana.
Overwhelmingly, the LEAPers shared that the people in Montana and Bozeman are very friendly and personable.
“Even at the grocery store people are friendly,” said Saki Wakabayashi from Osaka University. “I can have a conversation with anyone.”
Chisato Takeyama and Takuya Yoshida added that the different summer entertainment activities are fun and interesting.
“Outside entertainment is really interesting. Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is free, providing the opportunity for the community to enjoy the arts,” Takeyama said.
“Montana events like the Bozeman Symphony, Music on Main, Museums of the Rockies are interesting,” Yoshida added.
In addition to the Bridger Mountains and entertainment offered around town, the diverse cultural restaurant offerings were also highlighted as an interesting thing in the U.S. and downtown Bozeman.
“There are more than just American restaurants with hamburgers. There are also Chinese, Indian and a combination of various cultures,” said Tsubasa Akatsuka, Kyushu University.
What one place in Japan should every American see?
Ranging from Japanese National Parks to urban cultural experiences and cuisine, each LEAPer volunteered a unique slice of Japanese life for Americans to visit. Many of the destinations are their own hometowns like Nara, Gifu and Shodoshima – known for their temples, rich history and delicious food.
“Each place always says that their cuisine is the best,” said Mai Masunaga. “[In Fuluoka, my hometown,] we also have great cuisine and the historical Tochoji temple. There is so much to do, and you won’t be bored.”
Saki Wakabayashi recommends Okinawa, a small, tropical island in the southernmost part of the country.
“It’s a small island but has a lot to see. If you’re from Montana, you’re used to mountains. You should go to the other side of the world to the sea.”
“Tokyo is the destination to recommend because there are a lot of choices to experience culture and food,” said Yoko Takizawa.
“Kyoto,” said Masahiro Takanami. “It has many temples and shrines. It is surrounded by nature, mountains and bamboo forests. If you go visit Kyoto, you will enjoy the traditional culture and food.”
Anything that you would like to tell the people of Bozeman?
The resounding response from the participants was thanks to Bozeman for opening their community to the group over the last few weeks and invitations to visit Japan in return.
“It’s a beautiful place with wonderful people,” said Chisato Takeyama, Japan Arts Council.
“Bozeman has been so accepting of us. Thank you for that. If you have a chance, come to Japan,” Tsubasa Akatsuka said.
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By Emme Demmendaal, MSU News Service