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Worldwide Wesleyan hosting Japanese Outreach Initiative

Students enjoying the January Worldwide Wesleyan Event. (Photos: Ethel Ding)

The TWU Study Abroad Office, in conjunction with Trinity United Methodist Church (UMC) and the City of Athens’ Sister Cities Committee, recently launched Worldwide Wesleyan, an initiative to connect international and domestic students on campus and in the Athens community.

Worldwide Wesleyan’s next meeting will be held February 20 at 3 p.m. in the sanctuary of Trinity UMC and will feature Yumi Shimada. Shimada is the coordinator of the Japanese Outreach Initiative (JOI), part of the Center for Global Education at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her work involves promoting a greater awareness and better understanding of Japan, as well as nurturing new leaders through student exchanges.

The Worldwide Wesleyan idea is the latest development from the TWU Study Abroad Office and was specifically formed from a connection between Study Abroad Coordinator, Dr. Elizabeth Ruleman, and Skip and Victoria White. Skip White is the new pastor at Trinity UMC, as well as the new chaplain at TWU. His wife Victoria serves on the Friendly City Sister City Committee and spent four years living in Japan. Also instrumental in this collaborative effort is Dr. Augustin Bocco, TWU Coordinator of International Programs.

The Study Abroad Office is expanding its reach on campus, notably hosting a group of high school students from Nagasaki, Japan, this past summer, in addition to promoting an increasing number of travel abroad and study abroad opportunities for TWU students. The connection between the Sister Cities Committee, Trinity UMC, and TWU has grown through these visits, and the relationships built between Dr. Ruleman, Dr. Bocco, and the White family.

Worldwide Wesleyan, the newest Study Abroad initiative, is aimed as much at the visiting international students, as students wanting to go abroad.

“I am hoping to strengthen the internationalization process at TWU,” says Dr. Ruleman. “I am just one of many faculty who help with the international students’ needs—from driving them places to having them for meals. I have a special place in my heart for the international students; I admire their courage, tenacity, and good humor.”

Worldwide Wesleyan will have gatherings on the third Thursday of every month at 3 p.m. After the first “You Are Welcome Here in Southern Appalachia” event in January, the group will offer the event focused on Japan in February.

At this event, Shimada will discuss key features of life in Japan. Following her talk, she will lead an origami workshop in Trinity’s Fellowship Hall. All are invited to hear Shimada’s presentation and to share tea and Japanese snacks while learning the art of paper folding.

Part of the Worldwide Wesleyan internationalization initiative, this event will allow Tennessee Wesleyan’s students, faculty, and staff, as well as Athens’ community members, to share a learning experience in our own “Friendly City.”

In March, they will feature Costa Rica, with the students who spent Spring Break studying Spanish there as the featured program.

“I am motivated by my strong belief that we must spread the message that the U.S. welcomes those who choose to study among us and that our domestic students need more ways to connect with others from other countries,” added Dr. Ruleman.

“Together, we hope to spread the word to all the international students at TWU and to the international employees of local businesses, companies, and plants that they are welcome here.”

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