ENGAGING WITH ENGLISH How the University of Guam Creates A Unique Cultural Exchange Through its English Adventure Program

On any given day, large groups of international students may be eagerly roaming around the University of Guam’s campus.

Eyes shining and faces smiling, these groups—ranging anywhere from 15 to more than 50 young people—aren’t the usual sight for most study abroad programs in the United States.

These students—some here for one day and others here for a few weeks—participate in a specialized, strategic educational tourism program unique to UOG: the English Adventure Program (EAP), which is run by the University’s Professional and International Programs Office (PIP). Through this program, a new, two-way international exchange experience was established, enhancing cultural and academic development for students both here and abroad.

Growth

The English Adventure Program offers short-term English and culture programs to groups of students from schools and universities in Asia. In 2008, 518 international students participated in one-day educational tourism programs. Seven years later, the program grew 925 percent, seeing more than 5,000 students come through its doors. This fall, the program is expecting nearly 4,000 international students.

By leveraging the University’s proximity to Asian countries and partnering with institutions in South Korea and Japan looking to expand their study abroad opportunities, PIP was able to market the University as a destination campus.

“We had been approached by a number of different foreign universities, and because of our proximity to Asia and the fact that we’re a US institution, these universities wanted a destination campus where their students could learn English while experiencing what the campus life had to offer,” said PIP Director Carlos Taitano.

For the short-term programs, most international students get a quick glimpse of UOG, taking a campus tour or other activity that introduces them to the University. For the long-term students—those that stay for a few weeks at a time—they’re enrolled in English language classes that can prove to be intense, said EAP Outreach Coordinator Justin Andre. But as a break from the academics, Andre said students participate in cultural activities like learning how to weave and make coconut candy. They also experience the joy of island life through activities such as paddle boarding, eating barbecue, and relaxing at the beach.

“These activities help our EAP students experience UOG and a little bit of Chamorro culture, which can be much different than what they experience in a more tourist-central area like Tumon,” Andre said.

International Friendship Club member Ray Cabral shows students from Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan how to make coconut candy during a beach day outing—one of the many aspects of the English Adventure Program.

International Educational Experience Scholarship

As EAP grew exponentially, PIP needed a few more helping hands to lead campus tours and interact with the international students during their stay. The International Friendship Club (IFC), a UOG student organization, was just the group for the job. By devoting a portion of their time to volunteering with PIP, the members learn more about the Japanese and Korean cultures while making lasting friendships.

After four years of volunteering her time to EAP through IFC, senior English major Angelenne Serafico was not only surprised at how much she learned about others but also about herself.

Angelenne Serafico (left) holds hands with colleague Kyru Cabading as they wear traditional Korean attire during an international education experience study abroad in 2014.

“My most memorable moment was when I went to the airport to see off a student group and one of them broke down crying in front of me,” Serafico said. “He was the last one to go to the gate and told me, ‘One day, I just want to be as happy as you are when you smile everyday.’ I didn’t know something as simple as a smile could inspire a student like that. From then on I thought, I should smile more often if it makes other people happy.”

Another added benefit to volunteering with EAP is the chance to earn a fully-paid trip to PIP’s partner universities in Asia. With the money earned from hosting international students PIP established a fund, the International Education Experience Scholarship, that UOG students from any major or student organization could tap into for study abroad opportunities at 24 partner universities. To date, 30 students have participated in the travel program. Serafico said after four years, she earned enough credit for two trips—both to Korean institutions—to study language and culture while reconnecting with the international friends she made on Guam.

“You don’t expect to make lasting friendships with the international students because they’re just going to be here for a short while,” Serafico said. “You’d be surprised at how many of the students we hang out with stay in contact. And when I went to Korea, they all wanted to meet up and be my tour guide.”

International Education Award

University of Guam Senior Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Anita Borja Enriquez accepted the Innovation and Excellence in International Education Award by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in a ceremony on October 30 in Miami, Florida.

For the development and success of the ever-growing English Adventure Program, PIP was awarded the International Education Award by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in October.

The AASCU award program honors member institutions for excellence and innovation in several major areas of campus life and leadership, and because of its public-private partnerships; financial benefit to the University; and most importantly, its cultural and educational development for both local and international students, AASCU chose to highlight and honor UOG’s English Adventure Program.

“Receiving the AASCU award in International Education is a huge honor,” Taitano said. “We’re a very small institution in a very remote place in the Pacific, and to be nationally recognized for all of our hard work means a lot. It is a badge of honor that we can now take to all of our partner institutions and show them that we are a world-class program.”

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