For how long did you stay abroad?
4 months (1 semester)
Why did you choose to learn abroad?
I had always wanted to go to Japan, and thought it would be a great learning opportunity to go study in a new place.
What are the specific skills that you learned or developed?
Japanese language skills through interaction with locals, Adaptability through experiencing unfamiliarity in a new environment, Cultural sensitivity through adjusting to a new culture that was very different from my own
What benefits did you get from the experience?
I learned a lot about myself and my own abilities. On exchange, everyday things like grocery shopping were unfamiliar and more difficult to accomplish. It often seemed daunting, but I learned to push myself to try, and realized that I was able to succeed. My university was also a great opportunity to get to know people, and I learned a lot about how Japanese businesses operate in comparison to Western businesses.
Please, name 2 challenges that you faced and how you overcame them in your experience.
During the second month of my exchange, I got a really bad cold, and I had to go see a doctor. I went to a clinic nearby that said they had English-speaking staff, but soon realized that this wasn’t really true. I didn’t know medical terms in Japanese, such as the words for “cough” and “fever”, so I felt like I couldn’t communicate properly. Eventually I did a quick google search and found another clinic that was recommended by other foreigners as English-speaking. This second clinic was a little further, but I was able to fully speak in English and convey how I was feeling. In Canada, I would never have to think twice about whether or not I’d be able to visit a clinic.
Another challenge I faced was in making friends with local Japanese people. Initially, most of the friends I made were also from other countries, either exchange students at my university or my housemates (as I wasn’t living in university-provided accommodation). While they came from different cultures, it was still largely familiar. However, I knew that I should try to branch out. It was often a struggle because of the language barrier and cultural differences, but I learned so much from my Japanese friends. By pushing myself to use Japanese, I developed both my abilities and confidence in the language. I also learned a lot about Japanese culture and differences, which allowed me to make the most of my experience in Japan.
Would you recommend learning abroad to a friend? Why?
Absolutely. You learn so much from being abroad that goes beyond the classroom. It’s like throwing yourself into the deep end, and while there is a period where you feel lost, you end up feeling like you have a second home at the end of it. It was the greatest experience of my university career.