Ashley is an Ambassador who studied abroad in Japan
Major: Global Business Leadership
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I choose to study abroad because I really wanted to expand my horizons and challenge myself to overcome new things, in hopes of becoming a more well-rounded individual.
As a global business major, I felt that this experience would be extremely beneficial for my future because I have always pondered on the thought of doing business in Asia after graduating. In addition, I have always wanted to visit and learn more about Japan because of it’s deeply rooted culture and traditions. Even more so, I wanted to expand my knowledge about Asian heritage. I am Hmong and as refugees of war, my people were never able to establish a country of their own. I wanted to better understand how I could keep my own culture and traditions alive with the experience that I had in Japan.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
A cultural experience that changed me and created a lasting impression was being able to participate in a shrine festival. We were allowed to carry a very sacred and special shrine during the festival. It was life-changing because this shrine brought the whole community together. Everyone contributed and helped in some way. Some carried the shrine while others cheered for those marching. People were so nice, we were given water at rest stops by people that we had never met before. The sense of community and generosity was overwhelming. I felt so welcomed. If I could do it again, I definitely would.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall, studying abroad in Japan was amazing. Words cannot begin to express how grateful I am for this opportunity and how much I loved Japan. I was blown away by everyone's generosity. I learned so much and experienced so many new things. Without this program, I don't think I would have been able to see and do so much. We went on so many different and interesting excursions like the Cup Noodle Museum, Disney Sea, and Hakone. I also met lots of great people throughout my adventure in Japan. The laughs and memories that I shared with many of the people that I met will never be forgotten. I can honestly say that I don't regret studying abroad at all. I loved everything about Japan.
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 definitely many benefits to studying abroad but I think the most important benefit is that you are forced to adapt and be out of your comfort zone. I felt that I learned best when I was out of my comfort zone abroad. There were times that I would go out by myself and I would sometimes get lost. In these times, I would ask for help from strangers and by doing so, I made new friends and improved my Japanese language skills.
For personal growth, studying abroad really changed and challenged my perspective on how I see the world. Before, I left to Japan, I felt like my view of the world was very narrow. All I had ever known was America and how Americans perceived the world. Japan really broadened my lens to new perspectives. When my Japanese friends would ask me about things in America and why is was that way, I never really knew the deeper reasoning to why it was like that. I began to question and really think about why things were the way that they were and how it came to be. As a result, I feel that I have grown to be more curious and open to others opinions. I also came back with a new perspective that there is not one static way or answer to doing something.
Academically, I learned how to adapt to new teaching styles. The language barrier was very hard at first but it got better as the semester went on. Academics also contributed greatly to shaping my view of Japan. Without my professors input, I would still have a surface level understanding of Japan. I really appreciate the professors for being so open and willing to answer questions and to share things that propelled a deeper conversation. As a result, I feel that my initial reason for going to Japan has been accomplished. I can now see the world in more than one perspective and I am taking the knowledge that I have gained from this experience and using it to better myself.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
For advice, I would say that you should try to step outside of your comfort zone. Growth really does take place when you are no longer scared to try something new. Be open to new ideas and perspectives. Don’t just talk, also make sure to actively listen. Be adventurous, you are only in Japan once. Use your time wisely. Make new friends and keep in touch with those friends. Take lots of photos and most importantly, have fun.