By Ellen Cicchitti
While many of DeSales University’s study abroad programs have been in Europe, next fall will have their first undergraduate, full-semester exchange program in Asia-specifically Tokyo, Japan. Brian MacDonald, Head of International Learning, was one of three people who helped to set up this program.
MacDonald, along with Dr. Wendy Koenig and Dr. Jerry Joyce, created the program after talking about “future plans that we’d want to do.” They have a list of locations they would like to explore, and the locations on that list are based around student interests. “In this scenario,” said MacDonald, “we are getting students who are asking about Tokyo, and that’s why we have started looking into them.” Based on this brand-new program, there seem to be an overwhelming number of students who want to visit places in other continents.
“In terms of funds, [with] the way our partnerships are set up, students’ financial aid travels with them. There are additional scholarships that students who are studying abroad can apply for, and they can be for $500 or $5000, on top of what they already get,” MacDonald said.
Dr. Joyce, the interim president, signed a partnership and agreement with Sophia University in Tokyo. The partnership has been in the works for a year, and DeSales will be ready to send and receive students by the fall of 2018.
Of why students should study abroad in Asia, MacDonald said, “Well, it’s an incredible place,” MacDonald said. “There’s a lot of culture in Japan, one of the powerhouses in Asia. The school there is top-notch. It’s a really good experience if students are looking to travel abroad.”
And if students are looking to visit other places outside of Japan, they can easily do that. Even though Japan is an island, students can easily get to China, Vietnam and Thailand. For students who are immensely interested in Japanese or just general Asian culture, it is a great place because students will not be far from the different Asian cultures.
MacDonald said that the housing is not determined yet, though it will most likely be resident halls. However, some abroad programs have homestay accommodations or apartments.
One of the main challenges for students going to Japan will be the language barrier, but this is not something that should typically hold students back from going. Japanese students learn English at a young age, and Japanese citizens, especially those in Tokyo, should be able to have a simple conversation in English. The distance is far, so homesickness might be a challenge, but that is something most students prepare for, anyway, MacDonald remarked.
For preparing for the trip, be sure to look for resources, of which there are plenty, on Japanese culture, language, social norms and especially manners. “The last thing you want to do is come off as rude or offensive when you’re not really meaning to [come off that way],” MacDonald said. If students are still unsure, they could stop by the Office of International Learning, where they would get help with orientation and where things are and what they look like, such as the pharmacy or the store.
“This fall, we’ll probably get two or three students from Japan on our campus,” MacDonald said. So, it will not be just DeSales students going to Japan, but Japanese students will come to the DeSales campus as part of the exchange agreement.
To apply, students can go to the DeSales website and sign up via MyDSU, where they need to go to the Life@DeSales page, find the International Learning tab and apply there. They can also go directly to the application at www.desales.edu/studyabroadapply.edu. Unfortunately, as of now, the application for Japan’s study abroad program is not available. Updates will most likely happen as the year goes on.