SHSU Students Takes Trip Of A Lifetime
Three SHSU students had the opportunity
to do something that many dream of doing: spending a year in Japan.
Mass communication major Junko
Yoshimaru, sociology major Andrew Smith and graphic design major
Edwin Calvillo studied at Momoyama Gakuin University in Osaka, Japan
during the 2010-2011 school year. Momoyama has an exchange agreement
with Sam Houston State University through the Office of
International Programs that allow students to pay tuition on campus
as if they were taking classes at SHSU.
They recently returned from their trip
and are taking classes towards their graduation within a year or two.
I caught up with them to talk about
their experience studying abroad in Japan.
What’s the Word: How did the process
Junko Yoshimaru: I applied and fill out
the necessary forms to get there. The selection process kind of made
us nervous because they were four people applying and the university
only accepts 2 students per semester. Since the three of us wanted to
go for a year, they made an exception to accept the three of us
because of that.
Edwin Calvillo: It was pretty straight
forward as to what to do. I waited until the very last minute and I
was rushing the week that I had to leave. It was horrible for me.
WHW: That’s really awesome! So once you
all got there, what were your feelings and what was it like?
JY: For me, it felt like I was coming
home, even if it was a different region. I am originally from Chiba,
in the central region of Japan. We studied in Osaka, located in the
south. It’s a different culture even though it’s the same country, so
I felt like this is where I belong.
Andrew Smith: It is a complete opposite
of America when going to Japan and you feel that way anywhere when
studying abroad. It was exciting, but at the same time very scary
because I didn’t speak any Japanese when I first got there, so they
was definitely a language barrier to overcome. Overall, it was great.
EC: I was ready to go because it was a
lifelong dream. Andrew and Junko took the plane together while I flew
on my own. I had taken Japanese for a while, but I didn’t take the
classes as serious as I should have. So when I got off the plane, I
thought that I was so big that when someone spoke to me in Japanese,
I didn’t understand at first. So I stood there until another person
came up and told me in English what that person said. It was a
WTW: Can you explain the class
structure in Japan?
JY: At Momoyama, we take classes once a
week, sometimes twice, depending on how many credit hours we receive.
It was nice. In order to fulfill the visa requirements, everyone had
to take at least seven courses, but we were not getting credit for
some of the courses.
AS: In Japan, they gave two credit
hours per class, instead of three, so some of the professors were
like ‘hey this is only two,’ so I had to take basically the same
thing, like a 400-level class at SHSU. It was an o.k. Trade-off.
EC: I am on the complete opposite
because I am an art major and Momoyama did not have an art program,
so I only went to learn Japanese, but I wanted to do an art study in
Japan. For a while, it bothered me, but then I realized that my
Japanese was getting better and from that moment, it didn’t bother me
JY: The first semester that I was
there, I was able to take a few mass communication classes in
Japanese, but in the second semester, they did not offer anything.
Unlike America, they didn’t have a lot of “hands-on” courses, so
you just sit in the class and get lectured.
AS: That’s a good point that she made
because a lot of the classes here in America, the teachers interacts
with the students. In Japan, the teachers just lecture and the
students takes notes. I got so used to it there that in classes here,
when the teachers call on me, I am thinking, ‘How do I respond?’
WTW: What did you do outside of class
while in Japan?
JY: We taught English classes the
entire time that we were there.
ES: My students ranged from the ages of
two to sixty-seven years old. It was a lot to handle, but they were
enthusiastic about learning English. I always keep in touch with the
students in Japan.
AS: I really enjoyed teaching English.
We worked with younger kids and in some private classes, they were
retired people that wanted to learn English. It was really fun
talking to people.
WTW: What was it like coming back to
the United States? Did you re-entry shock?
AS: Yes, I did! When I went to Japan, I
had culture shock where I was getting use to it. When I returned, I
was shocked at how different everything seemed. I felt like a foreign
here than how I felt in Japan.
JY: For me, I was missings some things
in America like driving and some of the freedom to express yourself.
In Japan, you are reserved, so I kind of missed being open. But then,
I was thinking, ‘Oh, it was so nice not to drive.’ When I returned, I
was so tired of driving.
ES: It was good to see my friends and
family when I returned. Later on, I was thinking, ‘Oh, these people
are so loud here!’ Nobody was that loud in Japan.
WTW: What advice would you give to
those that want to study abroad, especially now that everything is
JY: I would say, ‘Go for it’ because it
broadens your horizons and experience another culture. You learn how
other people think and how they work. It is such a great experience,
especially in the Asian cultures, because it is a complete 180 from
the western world, not just in the languages, but in the mannerisms
AS: If you grow up in the same place
all your life, you would think that it is the norm. Once you travel
abroad and see other cultures, you see what it’s really like. Just
because one culture do something a certain way, doesn’t mean it is
correct. Everyone works together to get the job done. It is good to
study abroad because you learn a culture and a different language.
Also, some things are lost in translation and the more languages you
know, the more you will get out of understanding the world a lot
ES: The one thing that I didn’t like
about studying abroad was leaving the friends that I had made in
Japan. Not only did I made friends from Japan, but I also made
friends from different countries who were studying abroad with me.
Having to say goodbye on my last day was really sad.
JY: One thing that I do appreciate
about studying abroad was allowing me to learn more about America and
to appreciate the customs of the United States. It was a really good
thing for me.