Mark Leon-Guerrero

Mark is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Japan
Major: Psychology

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

I chose to study abroad in order to expand my horizons and also to gain a new perspective on our amazing world. I had never been abroad before this trip, and I was so excited to get out there and see what all was out there, especially in Japan. There are many different reasons why I chose to study abroad in Japan, and it is hard to choose just a few to talk about! But, one of the main reasons was that I have always been fascinated with Japanese culture and the technological hub of the world, Tokyo. Ever since I was a little boy, I dreamed about visiting Tokyo one day to be able to experience all of the advanced technology and also different cultural aspects that Japan had to offer. I was definitely not let down, and I am so glad that I had the chance to live (and study) in Japan for 4 months.

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

One specific cultural experience that made a lasting impression on me was the collectivistic culture that is present in Japan. Japanese people are always concerned about the overall good of the group and put the needs of others ahead of their own. This aspect had a lasting impact on me because it differs so much from American culture. A specific example of collectivism at work can be seen in the subway stations. On the escalator, if you want to stand, you stand on the left hand side. This leaves the right side of the escalator clear for those who would like to walk up the escalator. I was shocked when I first saw this, but I eventually got used to it and experienced a sense of reverse culture shock when I returned to America and saw how unorganized our escalators are! There were many other great examples, but this was one specific example that stood out the most to me in everyday life.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My overall study abroad experience was an experience of a lifetime. It is difficult to even try and sum it up in words! This trip made me a better person in many ways and it also gave me a new outlook on the world. I learned more about who I am as a person, and about who I want to become in the future. Tokyo is a lot more than the bright lights and crowed streets that we all picture in our minds. Even though these aspects are in fact true, Tokyo has way more to offer than I ever imagined. From the very nice Japanese people who are always willing to help, to the punctual and very convenient subway system, Tokyo is a place that is different from anywhere that I had ever been. Our home town in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, seemed more like a small community than the big city that I thought it would be. It was nice to be able to experience both the hustle and bustle and also the normal/quiet part of the city life. There is also SO much to do in Tokyo. There will never be a boring day, as there is always something new to see, experience or do.

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?

Based on my experiences abroad, I would say that one of the best benefits of studying abroad for a semester would be the change of scenery and the opportunity to be live in and experience an entirely new culture. Studying abroad changed my life in a way that it gave me a broader cultural and global view on life. Personally, I thought that it was amazing to learn how to communicate and do things on my own in a different language while I was in Japan. Academically, I feel like I learned a lot about Japanese culture, language, and traditional life than I ever thought I would. The classes that I took abroad opened doors to new topics and subjects that I still am interested in today. Finally, in a professional sense, I think that I can tie in my study abroad experience into the workforce by allowing me to have an outside perspective on any issue or topic that may arise.

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

The best piece of advice that I would give to CSB/SJU students that are considering or planning to study abroad would be to get out there and actually experience life in your host country. Don't sit around and expect things to come to you, but go out and do as much as you can everyday. The worst thing that can happen is coming back home and regretting not doing something while you were abroad, because an experience like this may never present itself again. I would also tell prospective students to not be afraid of trying something new. Whether it be trying a new/weird food, or trying to communicate with local people, these things will help you grow and also give you a better understanding of the host country's culture.

Questions?

Do you have questions about studying abroad in Japan? Email Mark at maleonguerrero@csbsju.edu