Phong is an Ambassador who studied in abroad in Japan
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Whether or not I would study abroad wasn't even an option for me. I knew coming to CSBSJU that I would study abroad; all I had to do by junior year was pick a program. Every program returns to campus with such amazing stories of adventures and experiences that it makes it quite hard to decide which one to actually go on. My brother (also a Johnnie) took Japanese while at SJU and talked me into taking it as well, even though I had never had exposure to it before then. Before first semester was over, my fellow classmates in Japanese language class and I were pretty sure we wanted to go to Tokyo. The following semester, a group of 22 girls from our sister school in Tokyo arrived on campus for a three week visit. We quickly became friends; this was what ultimately confirmed our decision. We now had friends in Japan, and continued to make many more through the multiple exchange programs that exist between CSBSJU and the schools in both Tokyo and Okinawa. What started as a hard decision freshmen year rapidly became an obvious choice by sophomore year when applications came around. There was no doubt that I was going to Japan.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Staying with a host family was the most memorable cultural experience for me, as well as a lot of other students that student abroad. It is one thing to go out on the town and have fun with your friends, but it is an entirely different feeling to have real, genuine fun with a family that makes you feel like a part of their own. We, on the Japan trip, made lasting relationships with most of our friends and host families, because in the end that is the best way to keep updated and stay involved in the country that you studied abroad in.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My experience in Japan was beyond words. There is no way to explain all the smiles that stuck on our faces day in and day out. There is no way to describe the laughter that rung throughout the dorm and Tokyo streets. There is no way visualize the life-long relationships that were formed in that one short semester. And there is simply no way to define the moments of pure emotion that we were faced with regularly. Some got our hearts pumping with excitement and joy, while others stuck us to the ground in heartache and sorrow.
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?
Studying abroad gave me a greater appreciation for culture worldwide as well as our own western culture. Personally, it has given me a broader view of how society works and how things are connected internally, even though we like to think cultures are extremely different and have no relation. I also learned about the academic system in Japan and was able to compare it to that of the United States's system. It made me realize which system works better for me and how I am best able to learn. On a professional level, I was able to form many connections in Japan that I would have never dreamt of before going. Also, being able to overcome cultural barriers and learning how to compromise between cultures is a skill that everybody on the professional level should have.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Do it. Throw all doubts out the window. Know that it will be worth it in the end and that it will only better your college experience as well as your future opportunities.