Education Abroad Global Ambassador: Being Informed Before Your Full Year Exchange by John Hammond
Studying abroad was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I enrolled in MTSU with this goal in mind from the start, and because I wanted to learn Japanese. Sometimes, when you build something up for so long it can turn out to not be what you expect. My experience surpassed what my expectations were; I had the time of my life. All my hard work truly did pay off, and I got to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Obviously, the work didn’t stop when I arrived, but any work that had to be done in Japan was worth it for me.
I went into the experience expecting to meet some cool people, some not so cool people, and enjoy traveling the country and seeing all of the sights that you can’t see back home. I know some people can think wherever they want to study is some sort of paradise or utopia, so I wanted to keep my expectations realistic. I did a lot of research into what it was like to really live there, not just study abroad. I investigated the good and more importantly the bad. Nowhere you live will ever be perfect, and that seems to be a source of culture shock that isn’t talked about as often. If you have the impression that everyone acts like this or the country is full of this and it isn’t, you can be in for quite the shock. I saw it firsthand from some people that didn’t seem to understand Japanese culture or the language. I’m not perfect myself, but I felt I had a slightly more than basic understanding of these things and it helped me tremendously. I would highly recommend googling to find out what are those things that people DON’T like about living in the country you want to study abroad in. Is there something that doesn’t fit with your personality that could be very hard to get past? Is there something that you couldn’t stand to have to do everyday that is normal in their culture? There will always be a community of people that don’t like living there that will make sure they let their opinion be heard about why X, Y, and Z sucks about living in that country. Now, don’t let this discourage you from doing what you want to do. I don’t want you to give up on traveling or studying in your favorite country; I want the opposite. Please go as an informed member of the world and experience something truly wonderful.
If you are going for a full exchange, or even just a semester, I would bet you have studied the language for at least a little while now. If you haven’t and even if you have, try and do some research into what words are commonly used and what aren’t. In Japanese class for example, some of the things we learn aren’t really used commonly and you can seem a little odd to people since they don’t realize you have been taught to use those words or that sentence structure before. You may even find there is a specific dialect in the place you want to study at, and you can learn some region-specific vocabulary and grammar. If you don’t do this it really isn’t a big deal, but locals always love it when someone is able to speak naturally just like them.
I encourage everyone to study abroad if it is feasible for them to do so. I also encourage everyone to do a lot of research before and after you make your decision so that you can be an informed traveler and member of the world. There’s a much bigger world out there than Murfreesboro and Middle Tennessee, and I want everyone to enjoy their experience as much as I did.