Zachariah Kratz '23

Program: Japan Semester

Major: Computer Science

Minor: Japanese

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

I have been studying Japanese for 3 years and wanted to continue learning and practicing by being in Japan itself. I was interested in Japanese culture and wanted to experience what it was like to be there. Almost everyone in the Japanese program that wasn't a first year went to Japan, and I felt like it was too much of an opportunity to pass up.

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

When the director of the program took us on a trip to Hiroshima, we went and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Seeing all of the pieces of clothing salvaged from the destruction, artwork from survivors of the bomb, and stories from people that had loved ones die within days or even hours of being rescued and brought to a medical camp. It was gut wrenching to see the damage America caused by one of the bombs. I had learned about the event of the bomb being dropped in American history class, but nobody ever talked about the stories of the people that were affected by the bomb. It gave me a new perspective on nuclear things and how terrible and destructive they are. I now have a better understanding of why the city of Hiroshima preserves one of their most prominent buildings of the time, helping them advocate for an end to nuclear weapons.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

I learned a lot about Japanese culture and ate a lot of food. One thing that is interesting but makes sense, is all of the Asian foods there were very different from Americanized versions of the food. Chinese restaurants were almost completely different in Japan, but they still had potstickers (yay!). Google maps also had an option for Japanized American food. I didn't try a restaurant with that tag, but I might the next time I go to Japan to see the difference.

One of my favorite things to do was simply go out (either by myself or with Japanese students) and eat out, go to a temple/shrine, go to a park, or go play at a game center. It was nice to eat out with Japanese students because they can translate for you. I liked walking around a park with other people, but you can always go by yourself (it's safe, ask anyone.) The game centers are fun to go with friends because many of the games you can play with other people. The last night I was in Japan, I went with a couple CSB+SJU students and some Japanese students for dinner and karaoke afterward. It was a really fun bonding experience that I'll remember and ended my time in Japan in a good way.

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?

Studying abroad helped push me a bit out of my comfort zone and adapt to being in a new country. It was weird to get used to everything at first because people in Japan act and view certain actions differently than Americans. I was able to solidify what I knew in Japanese and put it into practice almost every day when I went out.

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

Budget yourself and keep to that budget. It is very easy to spend more than you planned. I spent about $1500 more than I had planned. One thing I know more people than just me got carried away with is buying souvenirs. 1) make sure you have space to take everything back and 2) don't spend so much money on the things that you can barely afford to eat for the rest of the trip.
Aside from money, have fun. It's study abroad, not grad school. Yes, you'll have to do some work for the classes you will be taking but enjoy studying abroad while you can. It's a rare opportunity so make the most of it.