Name: Jesse Hall
Major: Computer Information Systems
Destination: Osaka, Japan
Senior Jesse Hall shares his experiences at Kansai Gaidai.
This past fall, Jesse studied in Osaka, Japan. Jesse is a Computer Information Systems major.
Why did you choose this program?
When I was a kid, my grandfather worked in the international visitors’ office in Washington D.C. When I was young, we had a lot of foreigners come and visit the house. I grew up around different cultures and got interested in East Asian cultures including Chinese, Japanese and Korean cultures. So, when I came to App, I wanted to take advantage of the Japanese minor program. Although my major is Computer Information Systems, I wanted to take that opportunity to study Japanese. When I found out that I could fit studying abroad in my schedule, I had to take the chance.
I went to the program at Kansai Gaidai because I heard great things from friends who went there. The location of the university was great. Osaka was very metropolitan and is a convenient distance away from Tokyo and Kyoto. I loved getting immersed in the old and the new of Japanese culture. Walking on the street of Kyoto you will see geishas, while going into Tokyo you feel like you are in New York City.
How did this program fit with your academic plans?
It worked well for me. In order to get my minor in Japanese, I needed to take a number of higher level courses. Here at Appstate, there are not that many options. So if you study abroad, you can get nine credit hours because they offer a much more intensive course at a much faster pace. The program worked perfectly for my minor as well as the requirements for the international program as well. I was able to get 12 hours of mandatory classes and an elective.
What did you expect to get out of this experience? What did you actually get out of it?
I have never had the chance to go abroad. I really wanted to travel abroad and see another country. This experience helps an individual grow personally and academically. I felt that it brought me out of a shell and helped me grow as a person. When you are in a foreign country, you have to be more open to take chances, bring yourself outside your comfort zone. Professionally, it gave me the opportunity to meet students from other countries who are also studying abroad in Japan. The professors that you meet there are the connections that you want to keep for the future. I almost was able to get an internship with a software company with the help of a professor there. Unfortunately, I did not have the exact program skillset that the company wanted.
Did your time abroad give you a new perspective of yourself and your own culture/country? In what way?
Hearing foreigners’ perspectives on America was a positive way of gaining new perspective. Just like with anyone in America, once you become familiar with the Japanese people, they will be more open to you about certain things. One of my Japanese friends said that he thought I was more Japanese than American because his understanding of Americans is they are loud, rude and fat. I thought it was definitely a perspective that they could have especially if they had not been to America. For example, the Japanese are more collected and reserved when they ride the train. However, some foreign students would eat food, and talk loudly on the train. The Japanese custom is to be very courteous. There are students who would adapt to the culture, but there are also other students who would justify their actions by saying they were bringing their cultures here. I can understand the sharing of cultures, but I perceive this particular perspective as rude. Overall, it was beneficial for me to see how others perceive America.
How will this experience enhance your future career?
What I like about my major in Computer Information Systems is that it allows me work anywhere. I am not sure exactly what I want to do with my life professionally, but I want to be flexible and be able to move. It would be amazing if I could travel and work at the same time all my life. Studying abroad opened doors to look at companies that offer option. I would love to try to work in Japan for a year or two but I don’t think I would work there my entire life.
How did you spend your free time while abroad?
Every single weekend was spent traveling. I made sure every Friday to let the teachers know that I would be gone for the weekend including Friday. We were in a foreign country. We had to travel and see things. My friends and I went to Kyoto, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Hokkaido, Sapporo. I definitely made it a priority to immerse myself in the culture and see as much as possible. Once I got the travel bug out, I looked for opportunities to volunteer. For example, I taught second-grade and third-grade students English.
What did you know about the host country? Was there anything you were wrong about? How did your understanding of the country change after being there?
On my last day in Japan before I had to go to the airport, I went out to buy souvenirs. When I came out of the store, it started pouring. I was walking down the street without an umbrella, carrying several bags. Then, I saw a lady sitting in a shop just watching the rain. I smiled at her. Next thing I know, she told me to wait and brought me an umbrella for free. It was a memorable last day. I entered Japan with a positive outlook and left Japan with a positive outlook. I felt that I had more of a culture shock coming back to America.
What was the most challenging aspect of studying abroad? What was the most rewarding part?
Personally, the language was the most challenging. I thought I was decent in reading and writing. But once I got into a much quicker pace in a classroom setting, it was a lot harder to manage my studying as well as traveling.
I thought it was rewarding to practice what I learned inside class in real-life situations on a daily basis. I took the train after class to force myself to use the language as much as possible.
A lot of the friendships that I made were the most rewarding part. Kansai Gaidai’s program was designed specifically for foreign students to learn Japanese and Japanese culture. A lot of students there take foreign languages as their majors. As a result, a lot of the students there were interested in foreign cultures and making friends with international students. It was a good opportunity to develop those life-long relationships.
I was able to do a home visit to a family of seven. We took a trip to Kyoto and walked around. It was interesting to see a Japanese house and interact with a Japanese family. The family was extremely friendly.
How much and what kind of support were you given by the in-country international office?
When we first got there, the office gave us packages of information with instructions on how to get to the town hall and get our residency cards. They also gave us advice on how to get to school since most of us lived thirty minutes away from school and helped us get bikes. They were timely with the paperwork. Every time we had a question, we could just pop in the office and ask the staff. One time, we had a typhoon warning and the school was closed. The international office made sure to send the info to all the international students. Overall, they provided the initial support that students needed. In addition, every time when you had things that you were unsure about, they would have the answers for you.
Would you recommend studying abroad to other business students? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Studying abroad will broaden a student’s view. For business students, just having an American ideal is not enough, you need to think internationally. I think it’s a great opportunity to look at things not just through a micro perspective from North America, but a macro perspective internationally. No matter what major you have, you will benefit from this experience with your view on the world and foreign cultures. It can also benefit the students professionally with an opportunity to work abroad. It provides a platform to create connections for such opportunities when you really want to pursue something internationally.
If you could sum up in one or two sentences what this experience meant to you, what would you say?
Studying abroad is the best decision I have made in my college career. It changes you for the better as a person and opens up doors that cannot be found if you always stay in your comfort zone.