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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

Northwest ESL staff members (right) show their Bearcat pride with prospective Northwest ESL students and alumni of the classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015 during a recent visit to Niigata University of International and Information Studies in Niigata, Japan.

Northwest ESL staff members (right) show their Bearcat pride with prospective Northwest ESL students and alumni of the classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015 during a recent visit to Niigata University of International and Information Studies in Niigata, Japan. (Submitted photos)

Dec. 15, 2016

Northwest contingent returns to Japan university for cultural visit

The NW team that travelled to Japan during Thanksgiving week.  From left to right: Helen Konstantopoulos (ESL instructor), Erika Lees (SEVIS clerk), Madeline Blair (ESL Conversation Partner), Samantha Heflin (ESL Office Assistant & Conversation Partner), and Alex Hartwig (Study Abroad Graduate Assistant).  The picture is taken on the observation deck of Nikko Hotel in Niigata that overlooks the Sea of Japan.

A Northwest team representing the University's ESL program traveled to Niigata, Japan, last month. From left to right are staff members Helen Konstantopoulos, Erika Lees, Madeline Blair, Samantha Heflin and Alex Hartwig.

Students, faculty and staff with Northwest Missouri State University’s English as a Second Language program (ESL) recently returned to Niigata University of International and Information Studies (NUIS) in Niigata, Japan, for a cultural visit and to reconnect with alumni of the program.

ESL instructor Helen Konstantopoulos, International Affairs Specialist Erika Lees, ESL Office Assistant and Conversation Partner Samantha Heflin, ESL Conversation Partner Madeline Blair, and Study Abroad Graduate Assistant Alexandra Hartwig represented Northwest on the visit, Nov. 21-27.

Northwest was one of four universities throughout the world – with Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia; Beijing Normal University in Beijing, China; and Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea – to be invited to the cultural event and symposium.

Delegates met with the NUIS chancellor and faculty and observed classes. The cultural visit concluded with an international symposium where Northwest students paired with an NUIS student on presentation about their experiences in Niigata. 

The Northwest representatives also had opportunities to meet and recruit new students. Alumni of Northwest’s ESL program, who had been part of the NUIS study abroad program in the fall of 2014 and 2015, attended the cultural event and enjoyed reconnecting with the Northwest representatives.

“They were very enthusiastic and showed their Bearcat pride,” Konstantopoulos said.

Additionally, the delegates enjoyed a bus tour of the Niigata Prefecture and visits to the Tsubame Industrial Museum, Takarayama Sake Winery, Menmen Tei Wataya for lunch, Yahiko Shrine, a local fish market, Seaside Line Road and Sakata Lagoon.

“We were welcomed with such love and hospitality,” Konstantopoulos said. “We enjoyed every aspect of our visit. Niigata is a beautiful city with the kindest people.”

Since 2000, Northwest has partnered with Niigata University to bring about 200 students to the Northwest campus. The goal of the partnership is to teach English and American culture to NUIS students through a trimester-long program operated by Northwest’s ESL program.

Konstantopoulos said she was honored to represent Northwest on the trip.

“Not only did I learn about the culture, which gave me more insight into and understanding of my Japanese students, but I appreciated the opportunity to learn about the university we partner with, help recruit some students for next fall, and dearest to my heart, see my lovely former students.”

For more information about the ESL program, contact Konstantopoulos at 660.562.1958, helenk@nwmissouri.edu.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468