James Moua '22
Program: Japan Fall Semester
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I wanted to study abroad because it was a dream of mine ever since I learned about it in freshman year of high school. After coming to college, that was when I knew study abroad was a part of college I had to take part of. Another important factor that drew me in to study abroad was the fact that I was so interested in Japanese culture. I have watched Japanese shows ever since I was young, so I naturally became interested in what the lifestyle in Japan was like and studying abroad in Japan seemed like a practical way to experience it for myself.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
The ramen in Japan is nothing like what there is in America. My first time going to a ramen shop showed me that there was no single style of ramen. Along with the diversity of ramen types, I found the experience of eating ramen to be unlike anything in America. Slurping down the boiling-hot noodles was considered normal to do and I distinctly remember burning the roof of my mouth my first time eating ramen.
Everywhere I went in Tokyo, I could eat a different bowl of ramen and this part of Japan's food culture made me crave ramen for the rest of the study abroad trip. Whenever I thought about the delicious, fatty pork belly on top of the thick-cut ramen noodles, I could not help but reminisce about the taste of the ramen in my mind. After leaving Japan, I realized how bad of an addiction to ramen I had developed and I wish I could get another bowl of Jiro ramen someday.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
The moment we landed in Japan, I felt a strange sense of calm despite my overwhelming disbelief. It was my first time outside of the United States and the first thing I remember doing was going to the infamous Japanese convenience store, 7-Eleven. Everything about this store told me that I had the definition of convenience within walking distance everywhere. Along with convenience stores being a blessing to have at almost every street, I thought the learning experience was interactive beyond anything I had done before. To learn about Japanese religions, we had the opportunity to participate in an actual Japanese festival, and there was so much going on with the festival that I forgot I was learning about the festival through firsthand experience. Throughout the entire trip, there was always something amazing yet to be found on my walks everywhere and the Japan study abroad program ultimately lived up to my expectations.
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 of studying abroad was being able to improve my language skills and making unforgettable connections with amazing people from all over the world. As the trip progressed, I gradually grew out of my comfort zone and found myself pushing my boundaries to brand new levels. Speaking Japanese began to feel more natural, and I started to embrace mistakes as a way to learn and improve. While I was learning in Japan, I found the material in class to be more practical as I began observing some of the real-world scenarios of what we learned about in class. This gave me a new perspective on learning and made me begin to consider brand new perspectives about the world. Although the trip improved both my speaking and real-world analysis skills, my ability to communicate with others on this trip improved tremendously and I built a better sense of professional communication with professors on this trip.
What advice can you offer for CSB+SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
It is an amazing experience and I highly recommend applying for it even if you feel unsure about it. This may sound like overused words that you hear from everyone, but I truly believe that this experience can deepen your learning in not only college but your life. The lessons you learn from being in a different culture broaden your perspective on the world, and it is a great opportunity that you should not pass up. Although I recommend study abroad as much as I possibly can, I still do want to remind people who are planning to study abroad to check with their advisors if they can fit it into their four-year graduation plan. If a semester abroad does not fit in the plan, there are always other opportunities during the summer that may be of interest. Pretty much what I'm trying to tell you here, do study abroad if you can, I assure it will be an amazing experience.