For CWU student Mami Fujino, getting to study abroad in America was an experience that was life-changing. The Asia University American Program (AUAP) gives students from Asia University in Japan the opportunity to study abroad at CWU.
“AUAP is not only about studying abroad for improving English,” Fujino said. “It also helped me become more independent. Living in a new place is challenging but I overcame this problem, met a lot of people, got a new perspective and grew up faster.”
Fujino comes from a family of six and is from Chiva, Japan, which is a small, peaceful town surrounded by nature, according to Fujino. She joined AUAP because she wanted to learn how to speak English. Fujino has cousins who only speak Filipino and English, and she wanted to be able to communicate with them.
“I am shy and I haven’t tried new things,” Fujino said. “AUAP has given me the opportunity to do something new.”
Fujino is currently a sophomore majoring in urban development. A requirement of her major was doing the AUAP program. Fujino chose to major in urban development because she is interested in people’s lifestyles.
Her goal is to create a city everyone is satisfied with. According to Fujino, it is important to create diversity when building cities, and the AUAP program has taught her about different cultures and has given her more insight to create better cities.
AUAP students learn a lot of practical English in their classes for their everyday lives, according to AUAP instructor Nicole Rehorst.
Out of the classes Fujino is taking, American Studies is her favorite because she gets to participate and ask questions. In Japan, students just listen in class and don’t get to participate, according to Fujino.
Outside of classes, there are many volunteer opportunities that AUAP students get to participate in. Brooklane Preschool, Afterschool Safe Place, and Habitat for Humanity are just some of the many places AUAP students volunteer at, according to Nicki Kukar, the AUAP program director.
“I think [the AUAP program] is really important because it fosters cross-culture communication and it helps Central students learn about another culture,” Kukar said.
All the AUAP students live in dorms so they can interact with American students and be submerged in the culture, according to Kukar. AUAP students host activities in the dorms, such as Japan Goes Central, where CWU students learn more about Japanese culture.
There are also in-classroom opportunities for CWU students to practice intercultural communication with Japanese students.
AUAP students also have International Peer Advisors (IPAs) which give them information, help them if they are having problems with their roommate and assist them if they are sick or injured. Ireland Vass, a junior majoring in Japanese, is one of Fujino’s IPAs. According to Vass, IPAs are the bridge between American culture and Japanese culture, and they help Japanese students get accustomed to America.
Vass got introduced to being an IPA during the last cycle of AUAP students because there was a deaf Japanese student, and Vass happens to be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). The Japanese student was in the process of learning ASL, so Vass became his interpreter for the whole cycle. There are two cycles each school year where AUAP students come to CWU: one in the fall and one in the spring.
“I was very confused as to what AUAP was but then once I got involved I literally, absolutely fell in love,” Vass said.
In her spare time, Fujino enjoys doing photography, listening to music and playing the ukulele. Fujino has been playing the ukulele for two years now. While in America, Fujino has been taking travel pictures and pictures of nature. Fujino would like to travel more globally and meet different kinds of people. While in America, Fujino has visited Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, Washington D.C., Boston and New York. Her favorite place she visited was Washington D.C. because she got to learn about American history and visit different museums.
Fujino likes America better than Japan because she thinks Americans are easier to talk to than the people in Japan. She said in America it is easier to make friends regardless of age. While in Japan there is more of a hierarchy when it comes to acting a certain way towards older people, according to Fujino.
“If you study abroad, you can get a more different perspective,” Fujino said. “A different way of thinking. Japan is small and America is more diverse.”
Fujino came to America in September 2019 and will go back to Japan in February. Fujino starts school in Japan in April and will finish up her junior year in August.
When Fujino goes back to Japan, she plans to go job and internship hunting. She would like to work at the airport so she can continue to practice her English with international passengers.
Fujino will graduate from college in 2022 and plans to get a job but isn’t sure what career she wants to go into.
Through the AUAP program, Fujino has gotten a lot of support which has inspired her to get a job where she also can have a positive impact on people.
Before the AUAP program, Fujino planned to stay in Japan and work after she graduated college, but now she wants to work overseas.
“The AUAP program has opened my eyes to many things I can do in the future,” Fujino said.
Fujino is interested in working in the Philippines as a study abroad coordinator. She has studied abroad in the Philippines before, so she already has some experience. She is also considering teaching Japanese because her teacher inspired her to.Fujino expressed that her experience in America taught her to challenge herself.
It used to be difficult to speak English for Fujino but comes a lot easier to her now. She has also participated in many different activities through the AUAP program, which has helped her grow. Fujino now feels comfortable teaching people about Japanese culture and is confident in herself.
“I learned it is good to try new things, even if I [make] a mistake,” Fujino said. “Mistakes are one of the experiences [of growing] and AUAP encourages [students] to try new things.”