Brendan Conway '21
Program: Japan Fall Semester
Major: Political Science
Minor: Japanese, Asian Studies
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I saw studying abroad as a new way to learn. I would be able to learn both in and out of the classroom while experiencing a culture that is very different than my own. I decided to study abroad in Japan because I had been studying Japanese and had never been to Asia. I had a strong desire to experience a non-Western culture.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
As part of the Japan program, we participated in a festival at a local shrine. This involved carrying a small shrine on our shoulders through the streets of Tokyo. Countless locals gathered on the streets and at the nearby shrine to experience this annual event. The sense of community I experienced on that day was incredible. Though I was from the United States which is about as far away from Japan as one can get, I still felt welcomed by the community. Being invited by the locals to participate in the festival and cheered on as we moved through the streets was an amazing opportunity to see in action the welcoming and communal aspects of the culture.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Studying abroad was a truly life-changing experience for me. I expected to have a new perspective on life upon returning to the United States, but I did not anticipate just how affective it would end up being. The most important part of the experience for me was immersing myself in a different way of life. I both learned about and learned from the culture. Abroad, the education one receives from being immersed in the culture can not be replicated by simply reading about it.
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?
Abroad, I learned about the culture and became a more open-minded person while having a LOT of fun doing so. My language skills improved through talking with locals. Through those conversations, I also was able to learn about their ways of life while making new friends in the process. We also had a number of classes at Bunkyo Gakuin University which educated us on a number of topics relating to Japanese culture and business.
What advice can you offer for CSB+SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
Do it. Research which program would best suit your personal goals and apply. It is an incredible way to help you grow as an individual. The thought of living so far from home in a culture that you do not fully understand can be daunting, but it is through this that you are able to benefit so much. Do research about the culture before going abroad to try to understand the mindset of the local population, but do not feel like you must be an expert. You may experience significant culture shock, but this is by no means a negative. It is a learning experience and it is one that will make you a more open-minded individual. When abroad, make sure to interact with the local population. You will make great friends along the way and will more fully understand ways of life that are different to your own.