Seventeen students from Tokyo have spent five weeks as Wildcats through an international seminar program studying English and will bid farewell to Tucson at the end of spring break.
The students arrived in early February for the Center for English as a Second Language's 14th annual Tokyo International University Spring Seminar.
This year 17 students came from TIU to study English at the UA. In the past there have been as many as 35 students, but the number has since declined due to difficulty in obtaining visas, said Jim Epstein, CESL Teen English Program coordinator.
Epstein said in addition to learning English at the UA, students learn American culture and will receive English credit at their university.
The students stay in different residence halls across campus for six weeks during the break in their academic year. They return to Tokyo March 17.
Epstein said the UA is well suited for the exchange because professors in the CESL program have experience with many special programs like the TIU exchange.
Epstein said Tucson is a good representation of the United States because of the warm temperature here during Japan's coldest season.
"I want to stay here," said Mizuki Negishi, international relations sophomore. "Its comfortable."
Negishi said although her English is improving, she doubts she will be fluent when she graduates.
Aki Shinada, a business information management sophomore, said he was surprised by the surplus of attractive women at the UA.
"Cutie, cutie, cutie, cutie!" Shinada said, imitating himself walking around campus.
Shinada said he met two people in his hall who are fluent in Japanese. One is an exchange student from Japan and the other is a Japanese-American student.
Others have not had such pleasant experiences with the residence halls.
"My dorm sucks, its dirty, hot and noisy," said Tetsuro Sasaki, with a laugh. "And I broke up a fight!"
Naoki Kushida, international broadcast media sophomore, said based on his roommate's schedule students study more at TIU even though the amount of homework seems similar.
Kushida said he hopes to become an English teacher.
The TIU students must learn English as part of their college curriculum. They said learning the language at the UA is easier than at TIU, where there is no emphasis on pronunciation or conversation.
Epstein said in addition to three hours of class every day, they hear daily lectures on American culture, such as the Tradition of Volunteerism, Native American Spirituality, The 1960s, The Cowboy Tradition and Rodeos, The History of Japanese Americans, The History of African-Americans, Western Music, the American Family and The Hispanic Southwest.
The group also takes excursions around Tucson, such as Sabino Canyon and Tucson Rodeo.
Naoki Miura, an international relations freshman, has taken the bus to see several NBA games in Phoenix. He said there is no major league basketball system in Japan.
Miura said he is studying English because he is interested in American history and basketball.
Masashi Tsuchiya, a social work sophomore, said the tennis courts here are "very special" because they are illuminated at night, unlike in Tokyo.
He said he often plays with other students in the exchange program.
Atsami Otsuki, international media sophomore, said she bought a used Green Day CD for "very cheap" in the Student Union Memorial Center.
She said American music is very popular in Japan - specifically Avril Lavigne, who she thinks is "so-so."
Negishi and Otsuki said they have made friends in the Japanese department and they get together outside of class and sing karaoke, play tennis and cook.
Negumi Kanamoto, international media freshman, Miho Nakamura and Natsuko Watanabe, both international relations freshman, said they play for the lacrosse club in their free time.
The three said they enjoy America because everyone is kind and conversational.
Although they said it is still difficult to communicate fluently in English, they feel their language skills have improved since they arrived.
The group will travel to the Grand Canyon during spring break next week and all agreed they hope to return to America.