It wasn’t a vacation, although it may have felt like it on occasion to the 44 students who graduated from SCC’s HTC (Hospitality and Tourism College) Program on January 30. Over the last 10 months, the students who left Japan last April to improve their English language skills, investigate career options and explore American culture, enjoyed field trips to numerous museums, beautiful sites such as Mt. Rainier and a professional gospel performance.
“The trips provided real life experiences for the students to explore the history, sports, nature and cultural variety of Washington,” said International Programs Special Programs Manager Bob Zwingli, the ESL Coordinator and an instructor for HTC.
The students were here thanks to a partnership between Shoreline Community College and TRAJAL, the largest hospitality industry training school in Japan. The program prepares students to work in hotels, restaurants, theme parks and the bridal industry. In addition to improving their English skills, these students were also here to learn about American culture and history and to prepare for their future careers.
The TRAJAL students spend half the day in the ESL classroom where they focus on speaking and listening skills. The ESL classes are taught by SCC faculty — Zwingli, Anna Maria Winters, Krisa Gardner and Heath Eriksen, who also teach in the college’s ESL program. The rest of their day is spent learning about American history and culture, career options and preparing for exams. This part of the curriculum is taught by HTC faculty Sadayoshi Nojima, Neal Colodner, Kaoru Kakizaki and Shino Hirai.
Zwingli says the SCC ESL instructors do much more than work with students on their English skills. “It’s a very full year in and above their English improvement. The program is very much project-based.” He said that he and the other ESL instructors make sure all students experience how to give formal presentations, complete research, give drama performances, participate in debates, and participate in simulations. Some students complete internships in local hotels such as the Westin, Renaissance Madison, Hilton, and Pacific Plaza. Others intern in sales positions at places like the Mariners Team Stores and Tillicum Village on Blake Island. Some spend part of their 10 months doing longer internships in Las Vegas and Hawaii.
HTC students have countless opportunities to participate in campus and educational activities. Some volunteer at the Parent/Child Center, or as teacher's aides in Japanese classes, and some join music groups, clubs, sports teams and academic ESL classes.
Another positive aspect of the program is the inclusion of Peer Activity Leaders (PALS), non-Japanese students who are employed by HTC to help out in the classroom with language development and immersion into the campus community.
“The PALS in the classroom provides learning opportunities for both the HTC student and the PAL members. They have become an integral part of the success of the program,” said Zwingli.
As many as 19 nationalities have been represented over the last seven or eight years.
Like all teachers, the HTC instructors are thrilled to see these students get involved in campus life. Many participate in campus activities and clubs, including music groups, sports teams, clubs and academic ESL classes. Some volunteer at the Parent/Child Center, or as teacher's aides in Japanese classes.
At the end of the 10-months, HTC students take the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) exam – and according to Zwingli, “many nearly double the baseline score they had when they first arrived.”
“We follow the Japanese academic calendar,” says Zwingli. That’s why they come in April and leave in January. The students return home to complete their third and last year of school before moving into the workforce.
More than 1,200 Japanese students have studied ESL and U.S. Culture at SCC in the program since 1993. Zwingli and the HTC instructors enjoy hearing from former students about their careers; some even surprise them by coming back for a visit.