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Office of International Studies and Programs

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Central Washington University
Office of International Studies and Programs
Hebeler Hall 102
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7408

Virtual International Offerings Thrive Despite Pandemic

Increasing the international mobility of faculty, staff and students has been a key priority of Central Washington University (CWU) in recent years.

Internationalization of the campus is a major part of today's higher education experience, providing students with the opportunities to explore new cultures, develop foreign language skills, and learn more about themselves in the process.

As the current pandemic closes physical borders and imposes limits on in person international experiences, Central Washington University’s Office of International Studies and Programs (OISP) continues to forge ahead in the field of international education through increasing the variety and quality of online options available for both CWU students and their peers at international partner universities.

During spring and summer 2020 terms, OISP facilitated programs focusing on the areas of education, foreign language development, and international communication.

Education based:

CWU students from ELEM 443 - Teaching in Linguistically Diverse Classrooms and EDBL 401 – Educating Linguistically Diverse Students, taught by Rose Romfo & Nicole Rehorst, met with students at Tokyo Gakugei University (TGU). The teacher candidates from CWU voluntarily participated in three online meet-ups with TGU partners who were also teachers and teacher candidates.  Once CWU student said, “This exchange has been awesome! It was a lot of fun to make a new friend and gain some new perspective on what education in other parts of the world looks like. And we all did it without having to buy plane tickets or anything!” They discussed topics ranging from teaching techniques, discipline, and classroom atmosphere.  Several pairs branched out into other topics and continued meeting beyond the required amount.  Another Central student shared, “I can see real value in doing more of these chats for the Japanese students - it will really help them learn English.  I truly learned how to slow down and communicate with English Language Learners a little better. The strategies really did help in my conversations with Yugo. We plan to keep chatting, because I enjoy helping him and learning about his culture.”

Language based:

CWU students paired up with students at partner universities in Japan, Korea, and Russia to practice language skills, through Virtual Language Partners.  Participation in the Virtual Language Partner program was either required as part of the course syllabi, or voluntary (not for credit) as a trial of sorts before fall term, where these language classes, plus Chinese, will incorporate participation into their syllabi as a required course component.  CWU student Gabriel Williams partnered with two students from The University of Shimane in Japan.  He stated, “I think this was a wonderful program, and I was very glad to be a part of it.”  One of Dr. Volha Isakava’s second-year Russian students who participated in the virtual exchange with The European University at Saint Petersburg (EUSP) shared, “The best thing about this exchange was gaining perspective from a student around my age in Russia and understanding her views and how life is for her in another part of the world. I was most surprised by how easy it was to communicate with each other and how 2 hours felt like 15 minutes.”

Asia University America Program (AUAP):

CWU-AUAP conducted 3 different online classes for over two months on a voluntary basis for the Cycle 1 2020 students who were repatriated in mid-March due to the pandemic (cutting their study abroad off 4 weeks into a 20 week program). The courses were American Studies, Integrated English Skills and TOEIC.  According to faculty member Andrew Cottonwood, it was a great way to expand AUAP (OISP) online teaching skills and experience, while providing continuing English Language Learner (ELL) support and practice for the students who were sent home early. CWU student classroom volunteers continued to participate as well. “AUAP Online class was so fun. Thank you so much for this opportunity to take online class.”- AUAP Online Student.

Some of these students continued on and joined the AUAP Trial Online Class which CWU held in collaboration with the other two Washington State AUAP sites at Western Washington University and Eastern Washington University. This three-week course (3 consecutive Fridays) focused on conversation skills and presentations on various topics. Students from both the spring 2020 cycle of repatriated AUAP students and those who had been planning on joining AUAP in the fall 2020-2021 cycle, but whom can no longer do so due to the pandemic. The class was a fun and functional success that led some students to register for CWU’s International Communication (Global Issues) class this fall quarter.

International Communication:

CWU students from Dr. Joshua Nelson-Ichido’s class COM 407 – Advanced Intercultural Communication partnered with students at Hacettepe University in Turkey.  Students were given general prompts talking about their identity, their culture and community, and how they get involved with their local communities and social circles. They were then given free rein on what they wanted to discuss and explore and met with their partners digitally on agreed upon days and times.  After each of the three video chat exchanges with their partners, the students wrote self-reflection pieces.  Dr. Nelson-Ichido shared that his students really enjoyed the partnership with Hacettepe.  “Many of them shared that they never even considered learning anything about Turkey, and many are actively excited about the prospect of going to, and in a few cases, even studying in Turkey now.  Students loved getting to know the students from Turkey, as many of them have never personally met anyone from the Middle East.”, he said.  He is hopeful that the program will continue into the future and would like to eventually build a series of student-led cultural seminars with international university partners.

WorldCat Connections:

Matthew Britschgi and Andrew Cottonwood conducted two sessions of a 12-hour virtual exchange seminar for students from partner institutions abroad.  This initial program was based on the topic of higher education and gave the participating students a chance to learn about universities and student life in the U.S. from CWU professors and students, while sharing their own perspectives on the topic based on their own personal experiences. WorldCat Connections will continue in fall quarter with new topics and further opportunities for virtual language learning and practice. 

Office of International Studies and Programs CWU MedallionInternational partnerships and initiatives facilitated by the Office of International Studies and Programs continue to evolve and find exciting ways to serve our students while furthering the internationalization goals of CWU.  If you’re interested in adding a virtual exchange component to your course, please contact Rachel Gordon, International Partnerships Manager, at

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