Kou Yang '21
Program: Japan Fall Semester
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Going to Japan has always been up there for me since high school. I took Japanese in high school for the sake of graduation but fell in love with their language and culture as I learned more and more about it. Thus, that was when I knew I wanted to go to Japan in the future. Upon making my decision about this program, I was taken aback by how I would finance myself on this trip. The scholarships was one factor as to why I decided to go but the most important factor was my Wallin coach. As she has put it, "College is only 4 years of your life and it's really the only time you can really explore the world". I thought about it and came to the conclusion, money comes and goes, but you can't buy back an opportunity. As of today, I am still managing my way to pay off my tuition but I don't think I will ever regret making this decision. The experiences, skills, and friends I made in Japan made this whole trip worth it.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
Japan is known for its hospitality and politeness and I don't think you truly will get a sense of it until you go there. My host family treated me like a member of their family. Although I only home-visited, they restlessly checked on my well-being. They would offer me things such as snacks and food. For my stay, they took me to one of the lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji. There, we rode on a boat and took pictures with Mt. Fuji. Afterward, they bought me souvenirs gift for my family and I and even took me out to a fancy traditional Japanese dinner. There, I got to experience authentic Japanese food along with learning how to eat certain food. My favorite was oimo-kake-gohan which literally means sweet potato put in rice. The texture was similar to natto but definitely tasted better. Overall, my home visited played a huge role in my experience in Japan. I got to stay at a Japanese house and experienced for one day what Japanese people's life is like.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My overall experience in Japan is one that will always stay dear to me. Although budgeting was required for me, most of my experiences in Japan involved me engaging and interacting with the people there rather than going out to fancy cuisine. Through interacting with Japanese people, I learned a lot more than I would if I hadn't went on this trip. My Japanese language skill definitely improved compared to when I first arrived there. I have learned of many Japanese etiquettes such as standing on the left side of escalators so that people who are in a rush can walk up using the right side. Another cool thing that I also learned is that when restaurants are going to close and wants to tell their customers indirectly (through politeness), they would play classical music. Japan is a wonderful country and I can't express how much going there has changed my way of how I now view the world.
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?
Some benefits that I discovered during my time abroad was connections. During my stay abroad, we also studied with other international students from Bulgaria, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, and Turkey. Knowing that, if I ever want to go to any of these countries, I have friends whom I can contact to show me around. Along with that, the staff at GSI (the CGE of Bunkyo) are very resourceful and friendly. Should you have any interest in working in Japan in the future, they are great references to help you. These are people that you now know for the rest of your lives.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
AVOID ARCADES! (But I think it's okay to spoil yourself once in a while) I can't stress how addicting they are. They will drain your wallet empty within minutes.
Go with an open-minded. Yes, some food may look unappealing and unappetizing but you can't judge a book by its cover. Durian smells pretty bad but they sure taste like heaven.
Research ahead of time some places you may want to visit and attend them throughout the semester. If you attend all of them within the first two months, you will have very limited options during the last two months.
BRING AT LEAST A JACKET! Yes, Japan's fall and winter season is a lot better than Minnesota but when it starts pouring in the mid-Fall and winter, you're going to wish you had something warmer than a sweater.
Try out their fast-food restaurants and see which one you like. Yes, it's scary ordering food the first few times but you'll get the hang of it in no time. Definitely try Sukiya. I have talked with a lot of alumni who went to Japan and a few of them regret not trying Sukiya (which is pretty close to the campus).