Song Yang is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Japan
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
A unique cultural aspect about Japan is the way individuals greet one another (especially the young greeting the older generation). I was very amazed at how easily I was able to pick on some of these, such as bowing or nodding my head slightly to greet everyone. At first I was hesitant to do this because in America, it's not common, but in Japan, it's a way of saying hello. This cultural experience (bowing) easily became a part of my identity in Japan and learning that there are different ways to bow towards different people, that was pretty amazing.
I also enjoyed how safe Japan was. Unlike in America where it's pretty much unsafe to walk around at 3am, I was able to do that in Japan. It felt very relaxing because I didn't have to fear for my life. Everyone is very friendly there and willing to help you if you get lost also.
Another amazing culture experience would be helping out with feeding the homeless. Half of the group and I was able to be volunteers for Second Harvest of Japan, where we walked 30 minutes to the park (Ueno Park) near our dormitory to feed the homeless. It was truly an amazing experience and you do learn a lot about the culture and people through volunteering.
Why did you choose the program in which you participated?
I wanted to study in Japan because I believe the experience will expose me to new ways of thinking and living which will promote personal growth, development of my own cultural awareness and understanding of another culture. I choose to go to Japan because of the uniqueness of the country when it comes to art, food, and also the uniqueness with how their society is structured, such as their age hierarchy system and life-time employment.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I say, don't fear blending in or don't fear change. Japan is a very friendly country and they do not discriminate or judge individuals who do not hold similar traits as them. Japanese people are very friendly and welcoming to foreigners. They do as much as they can to educate you about Japan. Don't fear getting lost or not knowing the language, because the people there are very kind-hearted and will make you feel like you never want to leave.
How has the trip affected you? How are you different for having completed the experience?
My experience in Japan has further my appreciation of the uniqueness of the American and Japanese culture.
Although I may have looked like the majority, being Asian, internally, I never felt so American. In Japan, I didn't have to worry about my Hmong identity overpowering my American identity like in the United States. I felt internally confident in who I was and this projected confidenced into my identity as an American in Japan.
After this experience and coming back to the United States, this has helped me learn how to balance both identities as a Hmong and American. It's like what people say: "You never truly understand your American culture or identity until you've been abroad", and that saying is very true.
What advice do you have for future Study Abroad Students?
My advice would be the same for the prospective students. The people are amazing, the culture is very inspiring, and the location of the dormitory and college is very convenient because it's literally in the heart of Tokyo!
Do a lot of exploring! The professors are amazing and they always invite you to go eat at their place! I really do miss them! AND go to ODAIBA! There is a mall with a huge fountain that snows! It's fantastic!
Do you have questions about studying aroad in Japan? Email Song at firstname.lastname@example.org.