Kia is an Ambassador who studied abrod in Japan
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad in Japan because I have always been interested in the country's language and culture. As a child, I watched many cartoons on early Saturday mornings such as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. It wasn't until I was in middle school did I realize that these cartoons are called anime and originate from Japan. Then in high school, I decided to take the Japanese language for four years and continued taking the language for two years at CSBSJU. Therefore, I had previous knowledge of Japanese language before studying abroad even though the program did not have any prerequisite of Japanese language. After learning so much about Japanese language and its culture in class and meeting the Japanese exchange students who come every year to CSBSJU, I was really inspired to go abroad and actually immerse myself in Japanese daily life.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
A cultural experience that made a lasting impression on my semester abroad in Japan was going to volunteer in Minami-Sanriku, an area badly damaged by the tsunami after the earthquake in March 2011. We met many survivors there and saw their drive to rebuild their community and rise above the natural disaster that has fallen upon them. During this volunteer trip, I was able to learn how children, non-government organizations, and the religion in Japan play a role in the reconstruction of the town. Through this experience I saw the resilience and the importance of community in Japanese society. If I can, I would like to return to visit Minami-Sanriku in the future and see how much it has grown since the last time. I would like to speak to the survivors and volunteer again! My experience there has left a mark on my trip in Japan that tugs me to continue to go back.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, my study abroad experience has made me grow a lot from who I was before the trip. I have learned more about myself such as my identity and about my future goals. It may seem scary to put yourself in a totally different culture from your own, but it's these new challenges that keep molding us to be who we are and how we will act in the future. My study abroad group including the director, staff from Japan, and Japanese friends, all contributed to making my experience an unforgettable chapter in my life. I have created lifelong friendships and learned more than I ever could in America about Japan. I really enjoyed and it would love to do it again!
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
There are many benefits to studying abroad. Not only do you get an unforgettable cultural and self-learning experience, you receive credit for general requirements or even for you major depending on which study abroad program you decide to go to. I learned so much about Japanese culture and about my own culture as well. You truly get to see American culture from a different viewpoint and sometimes reversal culture shock can be even more interesting than culture shock when you first arrive in a new country. At least for me, having to adjust back to American culture was more difficult than adjusting to the culture of Japan, probably since I already knew about some culture of Japan. In addition to learning Japanese language and culture while abroad, I also learned about political, economical, and global issues involving Japan. I have definitely grown as global leader by becoming more knowledgeable about worldwide issues. While being in Japan, I also met many new people that will help me in my future in professional development. Networking and getting connections is a great way to keep your future open with wonderful opportunities. Lastly, my semester abroad was spent with amazing Bennies and Johnnies, international students from Malaysia, Nepal, and Bulgaria, and excited Japanese students who I will meet again one day. Everyone was very supportive of each other and I have learned to live in a whole different country and culture from my own. It made more confident to say that I am capable of my own travels in the future.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
For those who are considering or planning to study abroad in the near future, you should get your application, passport, and other papers done as soon as possible. Figure out the cost of your trip and how you are planning to pay for it as well as what kind of budget will you have while you are abroad. Apply for has many scholarships as you can because you can possibly get your living expenses covered for. Also, pack lightly because you will be coming back with so many more things than you came with. Lastly, go study abroad with an open mind. You will not be able to fully experience the culture of a different country if you don't try anything new!
Do you have questions about studying abroad in Japan? Email Kia at firstname.lastname@example.org