Alumni Spotlight: Kayla Roberson


Kayla Roberson is a hardworking individual who loves to explore whenever they have the chance. They have a variety of hobbies including ceramics.

Why did you choose this program?

Initially I chose this program because my study abroad adviser suggested it to me as one of the more affordable options for me to study in japan. Introductory level digital photography sounded like a lot of fun, and I would get chances to practice my Japanese language skills. The program itself does not require an understanding of the Japanese language. I just figured being in Japan would help me learn, since the program encouraged you to explore to find inspirational photography.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My study abroad adviser helped me with figuring out all the documents I required before going to Japan. She also suggested websites for finding affordable deals on air tickets, and scholarships to help with the program's cost. The program providers were very nice and answered all of my questions. They even directed me to other websites for air fare that had even better deals than the ones my Study abroad adviser suggested. They would even call up on me to check if I was doing okay.

During this process I ended up sick and lost my two jobs. I was worried about affording the program, and needed to use what I had saved up to keep from dropping out of college. Athena abroad actually worked with me to establish a pay plan so that I could still get the study abroad experience, and be able to pay them divided payments. This allowed me to work out the situation, graduate college and still experience study abroad. I will always tell people how wonderful the program and people who work for Athena abroad.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

If this is your first time, try looking for places that you would want to explore in Japan. When you do so, be certain to get a map or tourist book of Kyoto. There is a lot of good restaurants and food which I regret not being able to try. Also it is very good to get a translating app on your phone as soon as possible. It can help you understand certain signs if you are in the older areas of Kyoto. They work well enough to translate speech too, but the apps are not perfect. Last thing I wished I knew is make certain to have skype because even if a provider claims to give phone service, there is a chance that your phone will be unable to get the service.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

You will get up in the morning around 6-7am and prepare breakfast before the morning class. If your class is in the afternoon, you have time to explore Kyoto and search for ideal photography models, or write essays for the history and culture class. On the days when there are field trips you will travel with the class to different locations and have your lectures and assignments in that area. You will get lunch and dinner before going back where you can do whatever else it is you need to get done such as laundry or cleaning up your mess.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear might seem a bit strange, but I was afraid of going deaf on the plane. This is because I have had a lot of surgery in my ears, combined with other issues. Which have made my ears very sensitive. I was okay before in high climates, but I had never gone higher than those planes flew. My friend helped me overcome it by chewing on a piece of gum. Once I was in the air, I realized that it was not so bad and took hundreds of photographs of the scenery outside the window. The gum did help with the pain, so I was very content and decided that flying was not as bad as I expected.

What was your unforgettable experience in the program?

I spent most of my life around nature, and can find my way around forests and plants easy. Which is why this story can be told for all those folks who are afraid of being lost. While I was in Kyoto I decided to finally brave the streets and explore without my classmates. This was because I wanted to find a very nice fabric store that I did not get the chance to look through. I tried to follow the map in a straight line like I had been told to, but I ended up lost. Even though the signs are in both english and japanese I still struggled. So I went back in an attempt to retrace my steps. Learned there is a bridge with a train, as well as a nice park on the other side of the river. In order to regain my bearings I went down and walked next to the river and sat down. Discovered these awesome patterns, and a beautiful photoshoot of the city. Plus there were some friendly cranes and pigeons. One of the pigeons even followed me, tilting it's cute red eyed head while sitting on the railing.

After asking directions from some friendly individuals near the river I managed to get back. I ended walking past the turn after coming back up to the sidewalks and trying to use the directions given. Luckily there was someone up there who was able to escort me all the way back. Best part I ended up finding some tofu with their help and made a delicious meal to thank them for helping me back. After that I was less afraid and managed to find the fabric store after two more tries, and got some amazing fabric which I turned into a cute little dog, and rabbit.