Having a broad world-view is important to me. I believe it is the most important quality in shaping who I am. Growing up in The Bahamas, it’s easy to forget that life is different beyond the island. Bahamians are brought up similarly, many believing that media depictions of foreign places exhibit exactly how the culture is. After coming to college in the US, suddenly, the media depictions I grew up with didn’t seem so black and white. People of different nations and backgrounds are complex, colorful, and interesting. This realization inspired my goal to study abroad.
The program I went on was called Concrete Japan through the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. It involved traveling across 13 cities in Japan to study concrete architecture. We stayed in dormitories, hotels, and hostels along the way and hiked, rode buses, and caught the subways to each destination.
Mostly student loans and the diversity abroad scholarship!
If you're going to be doing a lot of moving around/hiking while carrying a suitcase, pack light!
Shockingly, I didn't experience anything of the sort. The most I got was a few stares in the southern cities and a man asking where I'm from - all normal things.
Personally, it has enriched my world-view. I've experienced an Asian culture firsthand and can now consider Japan as one of the places I may want to live in the future. Academically, the experience has given me a new perspective on time-management. 12-14 hour days of hiking up mountains, and researching and analyzing concrete structures made completing homework on time without falling asleep a challenge.
Having a successful conversation in Japanese with a student at the University of Tokyo.
The workload was so heavy I didn't get to have much of a nightlife. As for entertainment, simply walking the streets of Shinjuku and Akihabara provided enough for a lifetime. Busy streets. Vivacious locals attracting you to their stores. And blistering heat during the day made it an interesting experience.
My study abroad course involved studying concrete architecture. As a future civil engineer, getting a glimpse into the world of an architect will prove valuable when it comes time to work with them in the field. Additionally, realizing the gap in my Japanese proficiency will allow me to study harder and focus more on learning the language. I have a newfound appreciate for people who speak more than one language.
I recommend it to anyone with even an inkling of interest in architecture because it combines the thrill of travel with an easy to grasp glimpse into the world of an architect.
Make it happen! Even if it seems like there's a ton of obstacles in your way, do your best to make it happen. Also research before you go anywhere.
I'm simply grateful for the experience. There aren't enough words to describe the awe of seeing somewhere in person that you've only seen in pictures your whole life before.