UCR’s International Education Program Celebrates 40 Years of Providing a Home Away from Home

The program has expanded to 5,000 students each year from all over the world who come to Riverside to study for a few weeks, or an entire year

Kim and Tom Carrasco sit with their current homestay student, Nozomi Hachiya from Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan. Carrie Rosema

It started with a simple request 40 years ago from UCR Admissions to UCR Extension: 20 students from King Faisal Medical University are headed to UCR. Please set up an English language program for them.

And so they did. But these students needed more than just English. They needed doctors, they needed help with science. And they needed families who would let them stay.

“They needed to be picked up from LAX!” Bronwyn Jenkins-Deas said to a sympathetic crowd celebrating the anniversary on Tuesday, May 10. Now the director of Extension’s International Education Programs, she noted that over four decades, they have expanded to welcome 5,000 students each year from all over the world who come to Riverside to study for a few weeks, or an entire year. It is one of the largest programs of its kind in the nation, she said.

“Our students feel they have a home away from home,” Jenkins-Deas said.

UCR Extension International Education Program celebrated 40 years of international visitors with a barbecue May 10. Carrie Rosema

UCR Extension International Education Program celebrated 40 years of international visitors with a barbecue May 10.
Carrie Rosema

They come from Japan, Korea, China, India, Spain, and the Middle East. Many of them stay in private homes, talking around the dinner table, commuting to school, heading out for entertainment at a theme park or a sports arena, shopping at local shops and malls. It has made Riverside a more international community.

“We have homestay families who have been with us for decades,” said Sharon Duffy, dean of UCR Extension. “We have several Riverside families who are never without an international student in their home.”

Tom and Kim Carrasco of Riverside have had international students stay in their home for the past 24 years, when their own son was just 4. He was an only child and their first homestay visitors were teenage boys from Switzerland. They blended in with the family so well that they have stayed in touch, introducing wives and children to their America parents.

As Kim Carrasco sat at the evening celebration, she said they hope to get to Switzerland one day, their current house guest from Japan, Nozomi, arrived to say that he had been invited by friends to go out, and he would meet them later at home.

“We’ve never had a bad homestay,” Kim Carraso said. She said her own son, now 28, plans a trip to Japan soon.

The visits can be dramatic because of world events, for instance the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku, Japan in 2011 left many homestay students from nearby communities anxiously searching TV news for glimpses of homes and family members.

“The hardest part is seeing them go home,” said Emily Dooley, who has been a homestay mom for 25 years. In that time, she and her husband Geoffrey have hosted 210 students from 12 different countries. They said one secret of getting conversation going is game night, including puzzles and dominos.

The 40th anniversary barbecue gave Bronwyn Jenkins-Deas a chance to reward her staff members, including Guilherme Almeida, who has been recruiting students from other parts of the world. Carrie Rosema

The 40th anniversary barbecue gave Bronwyn Jenkins-Deas a chance to reward her staff members, including Guilherme Almeida, who has been recruiting students from other parts of the world.
Carrie Rosema

The cultural benefit on both sides is huge, as is the economic benefit to the city. In the six weeks or six months of a homestay relationship, not only is an international student soaking up English skills, but purchasing food, films, phones and souvenirs for family.

Ron Loveridge, a UCR political science professor and the former mayor of Riverside, said the international character of the city is definitely noticeable to him.

“Riverside is not a walled city; instead we participate in many ways in the global marketplace. For 40 years, UCR Extension has been a major center for international study and visits.”

UCR students, faculty and leaders from Riverside take trips around the world. One trip 12 years ago celebrated the opening of a center that is a partnership with Riverside’s Sister City, Gangnam, South Korea, It is called the Gangnam – University of California, Riverside International Education Center and provides English language instruction with UCR Extension. It serves 1,000 students each year.

UCR Associate Professor Setsu Shigematsu took a group of students to Josai University Educational Corporation in Tokyo in 2015.

“Our students appreciated the privilege of being able to live and study in the heart of Tokyo at one of Josai’s beautiful campuses,” said Shigematsu. “Many students expressed that the program became a life-changing experience.”

She said she chose that destination because Josai University Educational Corporation with its two campuses, Josai University and Josai International University, has a 32-year relationship with UCR. It is led by a well-known women’s studies scholar and international education pioneer, Chancellor Noriko Mizuta.

Mizuta has ties to Southern California and to Riverside. She was a professor at USC teaching about women in literature during the time that she was raising her children in Riverside. When she accepted the chancellorship at Josai University Educational Corporation, she founded the first Women’s Studies graduate program  in Japan.

“Chancellor Mizuta wants her students to start thinking globally,” said Jenkins-Deas. “For example, in the coming week we will host the entire freshman class of 120 nursing students.”

Over the partnership, more than 3,000 Japanese students have come from Josai University and Josai International University to Riverside to study for short- and long-term programs. All of them have stayed with local families. A delegation from Josai University Educational Corporation attended the 40th anniversary barbecue.

“The partnerships, the personal relationships and the follow-through is so important in creating a sense of a global university,” said Duffy. “This program is a perfect example of that.”

“When we go to Japan it is amazing to see all the UCR sweatshirts at Josai International University,” said Duffy.

UCR delegation member, Sharon Duffy, Dean University Extension, meets students who had studied at UCR, The picture was taken April 23, 2015. (Yuriko Nakao/AP Images for UC Riverside)

UCR delegation member, Sharon Duffy, Dean University Extension, meets students who had previously studied at UCR. Duffy visited Josai International University Campus in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, April 23, 2015. (Yuriko Nakao/AP Images for UC Riverside)

The University also keeps one faculty member at UCR each academic year, housed in the UCR Extension building. “The four members of the delegation who are coming have spent one year or more in Riverside,” said Duffy.

They met with faculty and students on campus, had dinner with the chancellor at his home, and took a special gift back to Chancellor Mizuta, a rarely awarded UCR Medallion. It was presented by Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox to recognize Chancellor Mizuta’s consistent partnership, her scholarship and her pioneering work in international education.

 

UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox honors Noriko Mizuta, the chancellor of Josai University Educational Corporation, a partner for the past 30 years with the campus. Carrie Rosema

UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox honors Noriko Mizuta, the chancellor of Josai University Educational Corporation, a partner for the past 32 years with the campus. The delegation from Josai included Masumi Ishida, Toshiaki Inoue, Maria Shiguemi Ichiyama, Rieko Yamagushi
Carrie Rosema

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