If you ask Aki, Japanese student at A.C.E. Language Institute at Seattle Pacific University, what makes studying in the U.S. so challenging, she might mention how difficult it is to express herself in a second language. “When I have to speak in English I feel so nervous. I have to stop the conversation sometimes to explain what I mean, and I feel so bad about that.”
Yet you would never know from the way she slips into her comfort zone when talking with Sara, a linguistics major at SPU, who has become fast friends with Aki since they met last year.
Aki recalls how they met. “I was at the SUB (Student Union Building) getting a coffee, and I hear in Japanese, ‘Are you Japanese? Let’s be friends!’ I was so surprised, and happy.”
At A.C.E. Language Institutes, students study on a university campus, giving them a unique opportunity to take part in campus activities and meet university students and staff. Level 6 students can even take part in university classes as part of the A.C.E. experience. Still, it often takes a push or helping hand for many international students like Aki to make that “first friend”. Enter Sara.
Sara is part of a growing population on many U.S. university campuses that embraces the diversity represented by international students and faculty from all over the globe. SPU campus alone is home to more than 150 graduate and undergraduate international students from 35 different countries. For Sara, her background in linguistics at SPU and Japanese language study in high school and community college were a natural fit for getting to know Aki.
Sara shared her point of view. “Since I’m a commuting student, and don’t spend so much time on campus, it’s also hard for me to meet international students. We both are trying to speak each other’s language and can help understand each other and communicate.” Aki voices the same thought simultaneously, and they share a laugh.
The pair have spent time around Seattle in recent weeks. Doing what? “Have we ever hung out without eating?” Italian, Japanese udon, dim sum – their shared love of international cuisine mirrors their excitement about learning from each other and the international community at SPU. Sara has already applied to study in Japan for Spring 2017. “There’s one place I want to go in Tokyo,” Sara grins: “McDonald’s!” Aki bursts out laughing. “No, no, no! I’ll take you somewhere way better.”
“Conveyor belt sushi!”
Needless to say, there is no limit to where Aki and Sara’s friendship – and appetites – will take them!