Reports from Abroad – Week of Nov. 14

Study Abroad Advising:
If you are interested in learning more about study abroad opportunities, stop by the honors college seminar room to meet with Joseph Rasich, Study Abroad Specialist. He will be available every other Thursday from 2 to 4:30 p.m.

New Web Address for Study Abroad:
The URL for WMU’s study abroad application system, Broncos Abroad, has changed from broncosabroad.international.wmich.edu to broncosabroad.wmich.edu. If you have pages referencing the old URL, please update them as soon as possible: broncosabroad.wmich.edu/

Student Study Abroad Scholarship Testimonial:
Nihon University; Tokyo, JapanSummer 2016 by Ahmina Graves

This summer, I was fortunate enough to spend 11 weeks in one of the largest cities in the world: Tokyo, Japan. Thanks to the help of numerous scholarships, including the Carl and Winifred Lee Honors College Study Abroad Scholarship, this was the most amazing experience of my life, and I am incredibly thankful. From a young age, I have always been interested in East Asian languages and cultures. I made it my personal goal to gain fluency in Japanese, Chinese and Korean. In the summer of 2015, I applied to pursue a summer program learning Korean in Seoul but, due to the outbreak of an infectious disease, my program was cancelled which left me discouraged. However, that only opened the door for me to undertake three study abroad programs in the course of one year – the first was in Tokyo to study Japanese.

During my summer in Tokyo, I learned a year and a half’s worth of material in just 11 weeks. I had tests virtually every day, and oftentimes found it challenging to balance sightseeing with schoolwork. I had to remind myself that I was there first and foremost to study. Because of the heavy workload, the program was extremely beneficial and I feel that my Japanese language skill has increased tremendously. If you are serious about learning a language, going to the country where the language is spoken is absolutely essential.

In addition to studying the language, sight-seeing is a must. In Tokyo, there is so much to see. Before going to Japan, I didn’t have much of an interest in the popular culture. I was mostly interested in the traditional culture, seeing temples, shrines, and learning about the history of the country.

While in Japan, I saw many of the famous places that people think of when they think of Tokyo. My favorite of these was Harajuku where I saw a lot of interesting fashion styles and people. I also learned a great deal about Japanese day-to-day life, from shopping to riding trains.

Of course, I tried to make friends with as many Japanese students as possible. They were incredibly understanding of my limited ability to speak their language. Not being able to express myself correctly was definitely the most frustrating part of my trip. Although I took Japanese for one year at Western, I was not fully prepared for full immersion into the language. However, I am thankful that I learned some Japanese before traveling to Japan, because without it, I would have been totally lost trying to read signs and packaging.

My favorite experience in Japan was seeing fireworks and wearing a yukata, the traditional summer wear in Japan. Summer festivals and fireworks are definitely a big deal there. I encourage all college students to go abroad. There is a great deal of funding available, and it is a truly life-changing experience.

japan-picAhmina Graves and friends in Tokyo, Japan

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