Reason You Chose this Program: I had been interested in Japan my entire life. I had no second thoughts about where I wanted to go when I had the opportunity to study abroad.
Favorite Classes: Introduction to Japanese Society and Culture, Social Organization in Japan
Describe the Housing Situation: I lived in a dorm-style situation with both Japanese and non-Japanese students and working professionals. It was an all-male dorm. All the rooms were singles and we had a shared bathroom on each floor. There were live-in dorm parents who took care of any problems or concerns, as well as provided breakfast and dinner every day, except Sundays. We were close to a metro station, which allowed us access to the entire Tokyo metro area.
Advice to Future Study Abroad Participants: Study up on local customs and everyday phrases prior to going, and take advantage of absolutely every opportunity you can while you’re there.
Best Memory: One of my best memories was our group’s trip to Nagano, where we stayed for the long weekend. It was a refreshing change of scenery and we were there in the middle of fall, just as the leaves were changing and the weather was getting cooler. We did some cultural activities, such as soba making and apple picking, as well as sightseeing, going to Zenkoji Temple, Matsumoto Castle and seeing the monkey hot springs. Beyond all of this, it gave us a chance to spend time together and bond as a larger group.
Experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock: It was actually more difficult for me to return home than to initially adjust to life in Japan. Pace of life is extremely different between the megalopolis that is Tokyo, and the small town of Bloomington. On top of that, there is the adjustment of being back in your comfort zone after living in an entirely different world, where new experiences are a daily norm. Focusing your desire to return into productive efforts to go back after graduation is the healthiest way to overcome this reverse culture shock.
Complete this sentence: If I could do it over, I would… have taken time to travel more within Japan. Getting outside the country is expensive, but there is so much to see within Japan, at a price more reasonable than one would think. I would love to explore Kansai, including Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara or head further south to Okinawa.
Greatest Challenge: The greatest challenges were, of course, language, as well as remembering Japanese customs, which are dizzyingly complex. Unfortunately, both of these require a lot of individual study and practice. Fortunately, the Japanese are very understanding of difficulty with both. Regardless of all the embarrassment I faced, I was always faced with kindness and helpfulness.
Going abroad versus staying on campus, discuss: I think it must be clichéd now to say “my semester abroad was my best semester of college”, but of those who I know who studied abroad, I don’t think a single person wouldn’t say that sincerely. There are limitless opportunities available to you when studying abroad, things you would never have access to while staying on campus. You are constantly faced with new experiences, expanding your ability to approach new situations. Ultimately, international experience prepares you for life after college and sets you apart from your peers.
Fact about your host country that you think people would be surprised to learn: Japanese vending machines consuming more energy than the entire nation of Bangladesh.