Senior Devon Olding is a Japanese major who completed an exchange program at Tenri University in Nara prefecture, Japan during the 2022-2023 academic year.
The most memorable part of my education abroad experience was the connections and friends I made while studying in Japan. Going into the experience, I knew I would meet people from all over the world, but I had no idea the impact they would have on my life. I had a chance to learn about different cultures, study foreign languages, eat different foods, practice various rituals and learn a new sport. The travels and time I spent with the friends I made in Japan will be something I’ll never forget.
One of the most memorable experiences I had while studying in Japan was when I went to see the snow festival in Hokkaido with a friend. I spent about a week in Hokkaido, first in Sapporo for the festival, where I got to see the beautiful ice and snow sculptures that were built, eat miso ramen, and travel to Hokkaido shrine, and then to Hakodate to be part of an international abroad experience with other international students studying in Japan. The program led me to my first time skiing in the mountains, traditional Japanese ice fishing and snowball fights with the beautiful snow—giving me the chance to meet people similarly passionate about Japanese studies and Japanese culture.
Studying abroad allowed me to travel outside the country for the first time and experience a new culture I had only dreamed of since I was a kid. Not only was it an opportunity for me to learn more about Japan and to continue my studies of Japanese in a more immersive environment, but it was also a way for me to explore a different country and expand my views of the world.
I learned a lot through my experience in Japan. The first thing that I felt changed about my personality was the confidence that I gained in living an independent life in a foreign country; with that confidence, I gained many friendships. I garnered new knowledge about life outside the US. I’m not so different from others; even if there could be difficulty in communication, we can always find a way to enjoy our time together because we’re all humans.
Being a global citizen, to me, means being active with the world. It means taking the time to understand other cultures and the politics of other countries, seeing the world through different perspectives and gaining empathy for others while also sharing your own culture with the rest of the globe. My time studying abroad provided me with the experience of learning not only about Japan but also about Ukraine, France, Portugal, Colombia, Brunei and Indonesia. It showed me what things are like outside of the US and how I fit in with the rest of the world.