STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY

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Why did you decide to study abroad?

I was aiming to better improve myself and I figured that another culture would aid to the growing process. I decided to study abroad in Japan because I was found of the asian culture and their customs of efficiency and discipline. I believed that if I would surround myself and emerge myself in their culture that I would get influenced. I envisioned that I would become more self-reliant. I expected to grow academically and professionally as well by locating an architecture internship and discovering my career path. I decided to study abroad when I was arriving back from my visit to Palestine. I was on the airplane heading to Philadelphia and I realized that there is absolutely no reason why I can't study abroad. I told myself that I would do whatever it takes to earn funding for my semester abroad. 

Tell us about the program you went on

My study abroad semester was through the Architecture TUJ program in Tokyo, Japan. Temple University Japan Campus (TUJ) offered a 6 credit design studio course taught by Jim Lambiasi and 3 credit Japanese architecture history course taught by Dr. Deanna MacDonald. The program offered many class trips and excursions to visit architecturally rich places like Kamakura, Nikko, Omotosando, and open air architecture museums. 

How did you pay for your study abroad experience?

For my study abroad experience, I was able to have the entire trip fully funded through scholarships. My secret tip is to believe that no matter what, you will study abroad in the next semester. With that faith in yourself, you will have the discipline to write many scholarship essays. I applied to 7 scholarships, won 5 of those, rejected by one, and the last said they never received my application (bummer.)  I never thought I would win any scholarships because I believed I was a bad writer. That didn't stop me from writing them and I honesty didn't expect to win one. I just kept making revisions to that one essay and submitting it to different scholarships pages. 

What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?

 I wish I would have been able to let go of needing to have things planned and just do random things while I was abroad. I wish I would have taken more risks such as exploring and getting lost in Japan, and that is one thing I wish I could have done. I would always be worried about losing time and not having a trip be fun. Instead, I wouldn't travel at all and stay home. However, now I understand that I had those feeling because I had a lot of academic work to complete. 

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?

I have faced discrimination abroad because of my sex and nationality. In Japan, the word "foreigner" is a common name used to describe people who are not Japanese. Because I do not have the same physical features as a Japanese person, I can never become accepted as part of their society or community. In my experience, most of the time Japanese people reframe from sitting next to me in restaurants and trains. Part of their explanation is that they can't be of assistant to speaking English if the foreigner has a question. 
From stories I have been told that even though you may speak the language, marry someone Japanese, raise 1/2 Japanese children, and have lived in Japan for 20 years, one can not become Japanese due to their physical appearance.  This type of discrimination is common and isn't viewed as discrimination or something negative, but instead normal and standard. 

How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?

I have learned many things about myself during my study abroad experience that I wouldn't have been able to do in my home country. Because of the major difference and difficulties that arise daily with being in a different country, I became aware of my behavior, thoughts, and beliefs. I have learned many small things about myself that have helped me understand myself more. 

What was the most memorable moment of studying abroad?

When I close my eyes and try to remember the most memorable moment, I just get flash backs on great memories that have happened. The feeling of independence when I rented my first apartment, the amazing photos I have taken, the feeling of fulfillment on Ōsanbashi Pier, the feeling of amazement during lectures when Dr. Deanna MacDonald presenting about the Japanese architecture and culture, the feelings of joy and clarity after journaling. I don't have one specific memorable moment, but I'm sure as time passes and memories fade, they'll be that one moment I wouldn't forget. 

How was the entertainment and nightlife?

During my semester abroad, I didn't party or go out past 1am. My version of "going out" was drinking a couple of beers, having a meal, and roam the neighborhood of Shibuya. I didn't party because I had class trips and excursions on weekends and classes and interning on weekdays. Another factor was that I didn't have people to go out, which I realize now isn't a valid excuse. There were some days and weekends off, but I spend that time traveling. 

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)

Interning abroad has made me realize that I should become very selective on the type of work I select as my career choice. I realized that the typical architecture is not something I am interested in, and would build things that make a change in the world. Interning in a different culture has taught me about difference practices of work. I learned about the benefits and disadvantages of practicing architecture in the traditional Japanese manner and was able to compare that with my native country. I learned about the importance of relations and networking in career world. 

Would you recommend the program you went on, if so why??

I would recommend traveling abroad in general because you gain a lot of understand about yourself. I would recommend going to Japan because you will discover another way of living through the difference of cultures, depending on where you live. I would also recommend Japan because it's a safe country, which is a heavy bonus. 

What advice do you have for students thinking about study abroad?

My advice is bases on my experience, so with that, I would advise student to push the limitation of what your university and others set upon you. For example, I would locate an independent housing vs staying at dorms. I would discover the true date of when you have to leave the country and that is with contacting immigration. I would take the least amount of credits necessary, which is most of the time 12 credits to become full time. I struggled with balancing school, traveling, and interning. Although I exceeded in all areas, there might be another way that would have been easier. I recommend sharing the process of what you are dealing with to your local peers studying abroad and the native people to get different perspectives. I advise students to start listening to what their hearts and mind tells them and start becoming selective on the thing you take on.

Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience

Take advantage of the missed days you are allowed to have in each class as a way to add a Friday or Monday to your weekend travel. To locate cheap flights, visit studentuniverse, sky scanner (use everywhere destination tool), Kayak, airfare watchdog. Those websites can provide great cheap tickets. Also, I used overnight buses which is less expensive then taking a flight.

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