Why did you choose this program? It was offered as an academic year program for serious students of Japanese. I had heard great things about Nagoya as a city to live in as well.
Describe your favorite class abroad. Academic Japanese Reading. We were able to choose topics of our own academic fields and research them in Japanese. I learned a lot about content and terminology useful in my fields as well as other classmates' areas of study.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? There was a choice between homestay and dorms. I lived with a homestay in Toyota (a suburb of Nagoya) for a few months, then moved to a dorm, which was right across from the school. Although they're technically called "dorms," they were more like apartments (with 1 Japanese and 3 foreign students per room) with a lot of rules.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Treat everything as a learning experience. There will be good days and bad days, but all of them are important. You learn so much about yourself, your home country, and the culture you're in from your accomplishments and mistakes, so don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Going abroad is all about breaking out of your comfort zone--you've already crossed that line by going, so even though it's okay to still keep it in sight, make sure you don't try and cling back to it.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? Traveling. Seeing the diversity in Japan adds a whole new dimension to both the linguistic and cultural experience. From giant snow and ice sculptures in Sapporo to what had previously been a secret island manufacturing poison gas during WWII but is now completely infiltrated with spoiled bunnies, I can say I have had some very exciting experiences in my life.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? Nagoya is an underrated city in Japan! It's the 3rd largest, but I was asked by so many Japanese people (not from Nagoya) why I was going there instead of Tokyo. It's more of a livable city instead of tourist-y, which I absolutely loved. While it had some interesting areas that make it great like Osaka or Tokyo (Nagoya's Osu is like a downsized Harajuku/Shinjuku), I also was treated less like a tourist. I was never given an English menu in Nagoya, but people in Tokyo were confused when I asked for the full Japanese menu at a restaurant instead of the shortened English one. I felt I got a much more local experience being in a big city with less foreign tourists.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. Moving back from almost a year in major urban areas in Asia to suburban Indiana, reverse culture shock hit me way harder than I ever would have imagined. I thought I was going to be prepared for it, but don't let your guard down. Everyone experiences it at different levels and at different times, so don't feel like your emotions are any less real than somebody else's.
“If I could do it over, I would…” not pack as many shoes. It sounds silly, but everyone telling me, "Everyone in Japan is so fashionable, especially in the big cities!" and "You have 8.5 size feet? Good luck finding anything your size," made me put in a shameful amount of shoes into my luggage, even though I wear my tennis shoes or flip flops everywhere here. While both of those above statements ARE true (with limits), I felt totally fine not conforming. While you should try to blend in with the host culture, it's still fine to retain your own identity; my shoes are an expression of both my culture and my personality.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? Public transportation is navigable (but also different from city to city and country to country)! Born and raised in Indiana, I had almost no experience with public transportation, and it was this daunting maze to me. Luckily, Nagoya's subway system is nowhere near as difficult as Tokyo's so I was able to take baby steps. Now I am the master of subways. (Or so I wish.) But really, overcoming obstacles like these are what really help you learn about yourself and your capabilities.
If you participated in an internship while abroad, would you recommend that future students take an internship and why? I didn't do an internship, but I did work part time in an English conversation café. I served drinks, chatted with customers to improve their English skills, and sometimes held private lessons for students. While there were sometimes (very) difficult customers, I was also able to hear amazing stories. I met a 60-year-old woman whose dream it is to go to America, get a motorcycle, and travel the country. I met a man who first ever saw an escalator in a Charlie Chaplin movie. I met and communicated with an almost completely blind and deaf man. One client wore a Yoda ring every time. I bonded with a regular customer that came in every Tuesday evening. While gaining valuable work experience, I also learned more about other cultures and other people's amazing stories I would never have known about otherwise.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” Go abroad! You will be on campus for more or less 3 years--how many chances do you have to go abroad this easily? Few! Sure there will be things you'll miss, like going to Little 5 events with all your friends , but hey--I went to that bunny-infested island and a very...*interesting* fertility festival. Who's jealous now? My point is, there will be things you look forward to coming back, but in the meantime, you're doing awesome things no one else is doing. One semester of homesickness (and awesomeness) beats 4 years of regret that you never went abroad.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? I worried about *gaining* weight in Japan! They have a reputation for healthy food--which is legitimate--but the modern Japanese diet is also extremely carb-heavy (and not whole-wheat, mind you). Coming from a very health-conscious family here, I had to make sure my diet was well-balanced and was getting more exercise than just walking to and from the train station every day.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I received study abroad scholarships through the Hutton IEP program and directly through the Office of Overseas Study.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? Definitely apply for everything you can! Some scholarships are really easy to get something out of.