Maly Thao

Maly is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Japan.

Major: Communication

Minor: Sociology

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I knew that I wanted to study abroad in Japan prior to attending CSBSJU as a freshman in 2013. Two family members of mine have studied abroad in Japan before and one of the two has worked in Japan for three years after graduation. I also visited Japan for three months before studying abroad last fall. I also enrolled in three semester of Japanese, knowing that my goal was to study abroad in Japan someday. I wanted to be somewhat prepared to speak and interact with Japanese people when the time came. Studying abroad in Japan was almost a no-brainer for me, honestly.                             

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

A few friends of mine decided to visit one of the busiest and most well-known shrines in central Tokyo one day. We all have made a special Japanese friend who also attended our university at the time. She often times spent time with us at the international student dorm and actually became quite close with me. She often talked about us, the international exchange students--especially me, to her family and such. That day, her sister and mother was also visiting the same shrine and happened to see me and the rest of the international exchange students. Given that my Japanese friend had shown photos and videos of us together to her family, they recognized me and decided to come over and verify if whether or not I was their daughter's/sister's friend. Indeed, I was shocked to realize that they had recognized me from afar and even came up to me to introduce themselves to me. On this day, I was so surprised and delighted to have met my friend's sister and mother at the shrine. This is just one example of how Japanese people are so hospitable and caring. My friend was also very surprised, but happy to know that we met at the shrine.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Studying abroad in central Tokyo, Japan, is an experience that I will never forget. This was the second time that I have been to Japan, but it was a totally different experience. Living in the international student dorm with other exchange students was a great opportunity to make ties with those from around the world. The university campus was small, but comfortable. Transportation was great and the amount of walking that we did abroad was great for our health. I also volunteered/interned at the high school that is affiliated with the university I attended as well. This experience abroad has been wonderful and it has changed me a lot in many ways. I'm so thankful to have been given the opportunity of a life time.

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 automatically gives an individual a big sense of independence. It challenges the individual to find out what their likes and dislikes are, what they're into and what they're not into. It also tests their street smarts and how well they're able to adapt to unforeseen changes. In addition, there's multiple opportunities to make international ties while meeting new people and networking. Going abroad gives a whole new perspective to an individual that wouldn't have been gained if they had not gone abroad. It is one thing to learn about a country or culture, but it is another thing to actually be there physically, living it.

Going abroad has improved various areas of my life. I've learned more about myself, what I like, don't like, what I can and can't do. I've become more patient and flexible that I was before. Though I consider myself a pretty open-minded person, but going abroad has strengthened that even more. I learned about Japan's government, how they deal with the declining birth rate and the journey of students starting from grade school through college/university graduation. I am interested in possibly teaching English abroad someday, so it would be a great fit if I were to choose to teach abroad in Japan.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

First of all, go for it! Taking the opportunity to go abroad if an individual is able will always get a yes from me! There's something about seeing the world, experiencing new things and realizing how big this world is compared to the little pond that someone is in. It is so important for people to see and learn new things, as well as learning more about themselves as a person. When abroad, there will almost always be things that come up unexpectedly, but these things will only challenge you to overcome these obstacles and in the end, you evolve and potentially become a better version of your previous self. If I could go abroad again, I would take the opportunity in a heartbeat.