HESSTON — Hesston College has been hosting international students on campus for more than 70 years, but this summer, the college did it in a new way.

Eight Japanese high school students and two sponsors arrived to campus on July 30 for a week-and-a-half English Language Study Tour.

“This is a short-term program that allows the students to develop their English language skills in an immersive setting and also lets them explore Hesston College as an option for collegiate study in the United States,” said Chandra Johnson, director of Hesston College’s new Intensive English Language Program.

The students all come to Kansas with beginner level English, but the trip allows them to be immersed in the language and improve their conversation skills, as well as learn about American culture.

The trip was filled with English language classes, discovering what majors Hesston College offers and exploring south central Kansas. Each day’s activities were planned around a theme — Thursday’s Aviation Day included visits to Executive AirShare at Jabara Aiport in Wichita, a trip to the Kansas Aviation Museum and a visit to Hesston College’s Aviation program hub at the Newton City/County Airport. Other days' lessons included health care, farm and nature, business, and art and theater.

The group came from Osaka Yuhigaoka Gakuen High School. Coming from Osaka, a city of nearly 3 million people, to Hesston, a community just over 1 percent of the population size of their home, was a big change to say the least. The students stayed in the Hesston College dorms for much of the visit, but during the weekend, each student stayed with a host family and further explored the area.

A trip like this has been in the works for a while. Dave Osborne, former Hesston College director of international admissions, began building a relationship with OYGHS in 1998 when he first visited the school. Over the next 19 years, he visited the school 16 times and the school sent 12 students to study at Hesston College.

With the launch of Hesston’s Intensive English Language Program at the start of the new school year in August, program faculty hope language study trips like this one will continue.

“It’s exciting to be able to offer this new kind of experience to international groups,” Johnson said. “We look forward to the relationships that will continue to grow through it.”