IEI hosted virtual English program for students at Hirosaki University in Japan

Feb. 27–March 10, the University of Maine Intensive English Institute (IEI) held a virtual English program for students from Hirosaki University in the Aomori district of Japan. 

The annual program started in 2001 and has been conducted continuously for 22 years, with nearly 400 student participants. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been conducted remotely the past two years. Despite the distance learning, the Hirosaki students are still able to connect with each other, their host families and IEI instructors.

During the program this year, Hirosaki University students participated in daily English language lessons with instructors Cheryl Roberton, Shania Soler and Orlina Boteva. Twice a week, students participated in conversation activities with UMaine students, many of whom were part of the Japanese language classes taught on campus. Hirosaki University students also took a virtual tour of the Page Farm and Home Museum, and learned about the Wabanaki tribes.

In past years when the program was held in-person, students would stay with families and learn more about the culture and the language. For this year’s virtual program, Hirosaki University students were connected with families in the community via email, messaging and video calls. Host families and students even took part in a virtual scavenger hunt for household items. 

“Working with Hirosaki University students and this program through IEI is always an honor. At the beginning of the program, my students share with me their trepidation at speaking English out loud. By the end of the two weeks (that’s all!) they have had a myriad of experiences with me, their host families and conversation partners, and that initial fear is gone,” said Cheryl Robertson, IEI teacher.