The first group of Japanese students from Nagasaki arrived at Troy University on Aug. 15 for the English as a Second Language (ESL) program.
“Troy’s culture and history — I can feel Southern culture here,” said Saki Yanagihara, a freshman tourism major from Nagasaki.
Students said they found Troy “spacious and pretty,” and described American football as their favorite thing they’ve experienced at Troy.
The main difference between Nagasaki and Troy for Kazuki Kajiwara, a sophomore tourism major from Nagasaki, is the amount of traffic, stop lights and sidewalks. He said Nagasaki was similar to Troy in that it also had many old churches.
The room went quieter as they were asked what Nagasaki was like after its bombing by the United States in 1945.
“This question is very difficult,” Kajiwara said. His grandfather was fighting in Manchuria when the bomb was dropped, so he was not affected. Many people were evacuated out of the city.
“There are so few of them left,” Barrett Heusch, the program coordinator for the Japanese exchange students, said about the people who remember the bombing. “They have elderly people who have been affected by the war (World War II), and they come to schools sometimes and talk about it.”
Nagasaki is now completely restored and is safe for living.
The group attends a university in Nagasaki, which has five to six 90-minute-block classes every day. They said they regard exchange programs as a great opportunity.
“Studying abroad is so special because not everyone can do it,” said Yuya Kitamura, a freshman tourism major from Nagasaki. “This is a great experience.”
Talking about the program, Heusch said that the students visited Panama City Beach, Montgomery’s Rosa Parks Museum, the Alabama Museum of History, and the Shoppes at East Chase, and they witnessed a Dragon Boat Race, which provided them with a firsthand experience of different lifestyles in the South.
The group also watched movies like “Sweet Home Alabama,” “The Blind Side” and “Big Fish” to further get acquainted with American culture.
Heusch said he has seen tremendous improvement in the students’ language skills since they arrived.
“When they came, they really had trouble even getting the words out,” Heusch said. “But now they are speaking well. It’s not fluent, but it is much better than what it was.”