By Vipech Bun, Foster Undergraduate who participated on an Engineering study abroad program to Japan. Vipech was a GBC Study Abroad Scholarship recipient.
My experience in Japan this summer was an enlightening experience in multiple ways. The moment I set foot in Japan I already felt like a different person, I was overwhelmed with excitement being able to immerse myself in a completely new culture. From learning to navigate and taking the train on my own to buying my first bottle of Coke using Japanese yen and sign language.
This study abroad opportunity, in particular, was not just a cultural exploration, but it was my first time diving into the engineering community as a business student with no prior experience other than the curiosity to learn. Even though some of the lectures were very advanced and even flew over my head at first, never had I been so excited to be so lost in a new environment.
Several cultural workshops were offered to help the students feel as immersed as possible within the four weeks time frame we had. What started out as learning Ikebana style flower arrangement and traditional tea ceremony, later turned into five language classes where we had to interview local students using only Japanese. Of course, I was not the only one lacking basic Japanese linguistic skills, yet I built enough courage to approach students in the cafeteria asking to interview one-on-one. Even if I did not convince any of the native speakers with my Japanese, it was such a thrilling yet horrifying experience attempting to grasp a new language.
In addition, there was the experience I received to go hiking in the Japanese countryside of Yamata and learning from the locals about the impact and recoveries from the 2011 earthquake. To think that something so terrifying I heard about on the news was in front of me impacting real people even years after the damages was nothing far from rare life experience for a student like myself.
Whether inside the classroom or out in the field, thanks to the advanced lectures we received from each professor at Tohoku University to the weekly group project and presentations, I was pushed beyond the realm of my comfort zone. I really got to see how Japanese culture and traditions remain to be strong influences on their innovation and new scientific discoveries to turn their communities into a faster and more functional society. Looking back, it was definitely a wild ride that I would not have been able to imagine other than actually living through my four weeks in Sendai with Tohoku University and I would do it all over again.