Hana is a senior in high school and in June of 2017 she received an opportunity to go on a trip to Japan with The Experiment in International Living.
Why did you choose this program?
I received a scholarship from the Naples Council on World Affairs for The Experiment in International Living. I have wanted to go to Japan since I was 12, and their Language and Culture program fulfilled my desire to learn more about the customs of the country.
What did your university assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I was provided with financial aid and through the program fees only had to pay for a flight to and from our meeting location in Los Angeles.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
There is a lot of group time and walking. Be prepared to have a way to wind down and get some time alone (ask your leaders to take walks, bring headphones, or find a place in your accommodation that will allow you to be alone for a bit) if you need it.
Also, bring good walking shoes. My group members ended up injured from our walks because they didn't wear proper shoes. Bring house slippers, such as slides, slippers, airport slippers, or flats. They just need to be new and can have never touched the floor outside.
Lastly, be prepared for an earthquake. While it is not likely there will be a large one while you're there, I experienced a small-scale one that was scary to me because it was my first earthquake. Just go over the guidelines for handling an earthquake, which should be done in the first day or two of your trip.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Tons of walking, tons of exploring. Expect to take a train or walk everywhere except during your homestay. Try to learn some basic phrases and even some hiragana/katakana before the trip, too. It helps a lot to know how to ask where things are.
People in Japan are very kind and open to help you if you need it. You'll eat traditional foods and maybe stay in traditional hotels almost (if not) every day and have an end-of-day debrief where you talk about your experiences.
You'll also learn a lot of traditional arts and historical facts, which are all extremely fun and interesting.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I worried about my group members and host family. However, The Experiment works very hard to pair you with people that you will get along with. Once I met both my group and my host family I grew to love them as a family and we still talk even now that we are all back in school.
What if a participant has food allergies or a special diet?
I had group members allergic to fish, nuts, and eggs, and vegetarian group members. I had members with dietary restrictions due to religion. Your group members will help you convey your concerns to chefs and find items on menus that will work for you.