Hawaii launches program to promote more international student exchange
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) launched a new program aimed at attracting and promoting more international student exchange in Hawaii.
The newly created “Study Hawaii Ambassador Program,” kicked off today with the first group of ambassadors from Yasuda Women’s University (YWU) in Hiroshima, a sister-state province. These students are finishing a five-and-a-half month program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Hawaii English Language Program (HELP) and are heading back to Hiroshima on Sunday.
Hawaii is fortunate to host to a sizeable number of international students who come for a variety of programs including student excursions, summer camps and short-term visitation from K-12 students. The numbers of these students are estimated at more than 20,000 per annum.
“We’re delighted that these students have agreed to share their experiences in Hawaii with friends and family back home,” said first lady Dawn Amano-Ige, who helped induct the first group of ambassadors. “Their enthusiasm for Hawaii’s people, culture, historic sites, educational offerings and world-renowned natural resources will draw others to come study in Hawaii.”
These student groups primarily come from the countries that have been identified as priority markets for Hawaii: Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan. These countries have the potential to yield the highest return on investment in the short-term for limited marketing resources.
“This new program is an opportunity for our many student visitors to become advocates for our state,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “When students return home, they’ll have a new understanding of the uniqueness of Hawaii, and be able to share it with the rest of the world.”
Dennis Ling, administrator for the Business Development and Support Division, which heads the new program said, “The goal will be to get these ambassadors to spread the word about Hawaii as an educational destination, either by word of mouth, or by social media and other networks. This approach spreads the word on Hawaii with authentic peer-to-peer, often viral, multiple-channel distribution of information about Hawaii as a study destination.”
Participants will be awarded a certificate and a backpack recognizing them as Study Hawaii Ambassadors.
Participation is open to eligible sponsors of visiting student groups. Requirements include:
1. Qualified organizers of school groups, which may include compliance with Hawaii Compliance Express, registered to do business in Hawaii.
2. Schools in 9-12 grades and tertiary student groups are priority, younger grades on a case-by-case basis.
3. Sponsors bringing in 50 or more students for education-related purposes, excluding sports.
4. Sponsors who commit to provide a pre- and post-report of the visitation to include, but not limited to, itineraries, photos, publicity, and other results as an outcome of visit.
5. A minimal cost may be assessed to defray expenses of promotional items.
HELP Director Joel Weaver explains, “The 80 YWU Student Ambassadors being inducted today have lived in homestay situations with local families across the island since their arrival in February. They have studied in HELP’s regular academic English program for college success. HELP has provided them with customized classes on International Business, Tourism and Culture with a Hawaii focus. Each of them has participated in HELP’s Service Learning program, doing volunteer projects in the community each week. Those with adequate English skills have been eligible to participate in unpaid internships in a variety of local businesses connected to the visitor industry.”
This year, students participated in internships from the following businesses: E Noa Tours, Roberts Hawaii, ‘Iolani Palace, KauKau magazine, the Modern Honolulu hotel, the Halekulani hotel, Atlantis Adventures, and Casablanca Bridal & Formals.
“These young ladies are the perfect population to inaugurate the new Study Hawaii Ambassador program,” says Weaver. “Given the length of time they have been here, and the wide variety of positive community engagement experiences they have had, they are inspired to engage with their peers in Japan through social media to spread the word that Hawaii is a safe, fun, and high-quality study destination.”