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Shalisha Witherspoon
Florida International University, United States
Shonda Witherspoon
Florida International University, United States
Dayana Soler
Florida International University, United States
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Abroad Location: Japan
From: United States
Home School: Linfield College
Major: International Business,
Program: Study Abroad,
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Why did you decide to study abroad?
My roots are in Hawaii, and anyone that grew up in Hawaii can attest to the fact that there is so much Japanese history and culture present in the islands, so of course that influence, besides friends, food, and family made me want to go to Japan. It's also a requirement for my Japanese minor.

Tell us about the program you went on ( program name and sponsor, housing, academics, excursions, etc... )
It's a program that my host university and my college have, it's been going on for 30 years. It's about a three and a half month long program, where the first month we live in the Seminar Housing, the second month is a homestay, and the third month we move back into the Seminar Housing, (which is an equivalent to off campus dorming) but next year's students will be living on campus in actual dorming! Food was on our own budget, expect during homestay. We had Japanese class three times a week taught strictly in Japanese,and on the other days we would either have Japanese culture, economics, and politics but mainly taught in English. There is an overnight field trip to Nikko, and many other field trips. All of us American Exchange students got a JASSO scholarship, but we were really lucky! There is also a "Buddy" program set up, and it's actually competitive. Each American exchange student is paired up with a "Buddy". They take care of you, hang out with you, make sure you know your way around Japan, etc. By the first two weeks, you become actual close buddies. The experiences differ from person to person,but I know that my buddy and I became close and awesome friends!

How did you pay for your study abroad experience? (e.g. student loans, scholarships, personal fundraising/working)
For plane tickets, my college pays for it round trip, and since my college has a 30 plus year relationship with the host university, I paid for tuition through my college. For food and other personal expenses, I received a JASSO scholarship totally about $3,000.

What was the most memorable moment of studying abroad?
My most memorable moments are the break dancing practice sessions I had with Bep Hop, and hanging out with the "Buddies". Also waking up in the morning, and automatically think in Japanese, was awesome! That's immersion!

What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
The change in study habits is something I knew about but didn't quite understand, I wish someone told me why study habits changed, and that my weekends would always be booked! Also how the teachers grade, would be nice to know; I didn't know that my teachers would mark me down for a question that I answered grammatically right, which they asked for (how to use the grammar structure), but personally disagreed with the context.

Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
Since my skin is brown, when natives talked to me , they used Japanese because they weren't sure if I could speak English, but when my Caucasian friends would speak in Japanese to them, sometimes the natives would only speak English to them. It was an interesting experience.

How was the entertainment and nightlife?
Quiet in the more rural areas, and busy bustling in the cities. If you know where to look, there are restaurants and bars open in the wee hours of the night. It sucked that most buses in the Kanto region stopped after 10pm, and the trains eventually stop at a certain point.

What advice do you have for students thinking about study abroad?
Join a circle or club at your host university, get out of that exchange student bubble! Once you start thinking or dreaming in your abroad language, you know you're immersed! Study during the summer if you can. DON'T LET MONEY ISSUES KEEP YOU FROM DOING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO-- After all, when will your next trip be to this study abroad country?

How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
Academically, it was challenging because of the work load and trying to fit in field trips and getting to know Japan by venturing through it. My enrichment in Japanese culture, economics, and politics also increased, especially my language proficiency. Personally, this experience made me very humble, and think differently. It also allowed my to do things on my bucket list I never imagined would come true!

In what way do you feel your experience abroad has prepared you for your future career? (Think both tangible things like language acquisition and intangible like learning to work with people who are very different from you)
Having a feel for the lifestyle and Japanese culture will be very useful when interacting and scheduling meetings, etc with Japanese business people.

Would you recommend study abroad to other students? Would you recommend the program you went on?
If you want to do something, do it, don't let money be an issue, when's the next time you're going to be in this study abroad country? If you want to join a circle or club, find out and join from the beginning of your stay, unlike me, only finding out and joining during the last couple of weeks left of the program @_@


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