This semester, the University of Southern Indiana through the Office of International Programs and Studies (IPS) is providing a temporary home for exchange students from all three of Evansville’s sister cities, Tizimín, Mexico; Osnabrück, Germany; and Tochigi, Japan.
Evansville’s three sister cities are designated by Sister City International, Inc., a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between the United States and international communities. Twin towns or sister cities are cooperative agreements between towns, cities, and even counties in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties. The University of Southern Indiana has fostered unique partnerships with universities in all three of Evansville’s sister cities, inviting exchange students to participate in interdisciplinary and disciplinary programs. Some of the partnerships have been ongoing for years.
Adriana Mezo is the daughter of José Mezo Peniche, who just recently was succeeded as mayor of Evansville’s sister city in Tizimín. She is currently taking courses in USI’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program and plans to enroll in business classes in the spring. She has an undergraduate degree in international trade from the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán in Mexico and a degree in economics from University of Toulouse in France. Her plan is to use the education she receives at USI to work for a private or government agency.
“In order for me to get a job working on an international level, I need to sharpen my English and business skills,” Mezo said. “That’s why I chose to take ESL and business classes at USI.”
Mezo’s time at USI is sponsored by the University, with help from Evansville’s Rotary Club, an international organization of business and professional leaders. The Evansville Rotary has formed lasting relationships with government officials in Tizimín, including Mezo’s father. Mezo is acting as an ambassador between Tizimín and Evansville during her time here and has spoken at several public and Rotary events.
Johnathan Weinzapfel, former mayor of Evansville, and his wife Patricia were also instrumental in bringing Mezo to USI. “Rotary Club, Johnathan Weinzapfel and his wife Patricia have really helped me feel at home here,” said Mezo. “They always email and call me to make sure I am comfortable and see how classes are going. They are like my American family. I cannot say thank you enough for all they have done to welcome me.”
Kai Nobbe is one of eight students from Osnabrück, Germany studying at USI this semester. She is majoring in German and English and is enrolled in several English literature and history courses. She plans to use her degree to teach at a university in America.
Nobbe visited the United States for a year in Washington, D.C., working as an au pair (a domestic assistant from a foreign country providing childcare for a host family) in 2010. Ever since then, her desire has been to return to the United States to complete her studies. “I decided I wanted to return to the States shortly after I came back to University of Osnabrück,” Nobbe said. “My friends told me about the exchange program through USI, and I couldn’t resist.”
Nobbe is impressed with the integration of technology in USI classrooms. She plans to practice similar teaching strategies as a professor of German. “I would love to come back after I finish my program and work in Washington, D.C.,” Nobbe said. “I could use the English skills I have developed and be close to the host family I worked with as an au pair.”
At USI, Nobbe appreciated the overwhelming sense of community. “USI has so much to offer students that makes it a community,” she said. “The international program is full of people who are always available to help, and there are many things to enjoy on campus. The buildings make it feel like a town with a great recreational facility, multiple areas to do homework and study, and student activities going on.”
Fumiko Kimijima is one of five students from Tochigi, Japan. She is enrolled in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program at USI. Kimijima received her bachelor in economics degree from Hosei University in Tokyo, Japan. She has extensive background working in advertising and marketing and plans to be a magazine editor. She is also furthering her education so she can work as a teacher.
“Before I came to the United States, I was searching for a new job on the Internet and found USI’s exchange program by chance,” Kimijima said. “I’m very glad that I did, because the MALS program will help me to be a teacher when I eventually go back to Japan.”
Kimijima is the first person to teach at a Japanese school through USI’s partnership with Tochigi. She works one day a week with kindergarten through 12th-grade students at Southern Indiana Japanese School (SIJS). SIJS is a program through USI’s Office of Outreach and Engagement that enables school-age children of Japanese employees working for companies such as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton, Indiana, to integrate smoothly into school life when they return to Japan. Kimijima educates the students in Japanese, social studies, and mathematics. She hopes that her success will enable other students to come to America too.
“The courses that I am taking now are going to be very useful for me,” Kimijima said. “I’ve really enjoyed the fact that American culture allows people to be more outgoing and open. It’s a good experience for anyone.”
The primary mission of International Programs and Services is to enhance the international dimensions of the University and to facilitate opportunities for all students to acquire skills necessary to succeed in a global society. One of the main responsibilities of the IPS Office is to provide information, services, and programs designed to meet the unique needs of international students and scholars. IPS also assists in the development and coordination of overseas study programs and provides access to study abroad opportunities for all USI students.
Photo Credit: USI Photography
Adriana Mezo, Kai Nobbe and Fumiko Kimijima