At my University, UNLV, our study abroad programs are all more or less through USAC. I knew I wanted to go to Japan, a place with a culture that had captivated me from a young age. USAC offered Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or Nishinomiya programs, and after inspecting each of the cities, I felt Nagasaki was the best choice. A city, not too rural, but not too big either. A city with a rich history, and a University rich with lots of extracurricular opportunities.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
USAC helped me grasp what steps I needed to take. I would have likely been a mess if I didn't have a checklist in front of me, and who knows how long or how accurate it would've been if I tried to put together my own checklist. I feel almost like the assistance I got before arriving in Japan was all kind of at a distance, as most resources were online.
Up until I landed at the airport in Fukuoka, a city near Nagasaki, I had done most things myself. But when I arrived, I was picked up by those who work at NUFS' International Office, and they were really the best people you could imagine. They helped get to Nagasaki, they helped us get settled in the dorm, helped us get bus cards for traveling the city, they were really just our heroes.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
One thing I wish I knew before going to NUFS was that it is a Christian university. Knowing the history of Nagasaki, that it was the only port of entry to Japan from foreign countries while Japan was in its isolationist era, this is not shocking. I still would have gone to NUFS with this knowledge, since it doesn't impact you in day to day life at all, but it was kind of shocking to discover once I was there.
Also, bring fewer clothes than you think you need. You will buy clothes (great thrift stores in Nagasaki by the way) and bringing too much is just gonna make your luggage heavier.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
An average week as a foreign student at NUFS entails going to class, making friends, going on a self determined field trip, hanging out with friends, being embarrassed by your Japanese language skills, going to class, being confused at the grocery store, buying lunch from Family Mart, doing some homework, making more friends, going to club, and just generally having a great time.
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 think my greatest fear before going abroad was that I wouldn't make any friends and I would just be lonely the whole time.
This did not happen, not even a little. Just landing in the airport and being picked up by the International Office workers along with some other students, it was pretty evident that it wouldn't be hard to make friends. And I can't say that I expect to stay in contact with all 60 or so American students in the program with me, I have certainly made some friends that will last a lifetime.
Anything you should do to prepare before doing this program?
I only took one semester of Japanese before going abroad, and I got by just fine so don't be concerned about that. However, I think I would have gotten more out of the program if I was at least intermediate before going to NUFS.
I think if my language was a little better I would have been able to better connect with my Japanese-only speaking professors, as well as more Japanese students. I would have been more comfortable taking more Japanese language classes while at NUFS if I already had a bit more of a foundation before I went. This is not to say my time was bad in any way due to my language level, or that you should be super-advanced before going abroad, but I think it could have been more enriching if I had already gotten my basics down.
Any final shoutouts?
Shout out to my Tea Ceremony professor, Takahashi-Sensei!! She is the nicest and funniest lady I've ever met, like, I wish she was my grandma. She was always the most encouraging person, and she even told me to visit a museum in Tokyo that I never would've known of otherwise. If you do this program, you better take the Traditional Japanese Arts class just to meet her! Or join the tea ceremony club!
One other shout out to the International Office staff for always being there to support us, give us extracurricular opportunities, explain stuff to us when we can't figure it out, and just really be the best!