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2014年3月19日 11:00

Study Abroad

Natsumi Tsukano 塚野菜摘 文化構想学部

留学先:University of Washington (U.S.A.)


Return to my home town.

This was one and the only reason I have decided to study abroad, and to choose University of Washington as a place to spend my whole precious year as a student.

Since I formerly lived in Seattle and had known this university since then, it was my dream to study in this best-known institution around the Northwest region. Moreover, since my family was still living in Seattle, choosing this university was my best option for economic reasons, and for family reunion.

This may sound as if it was no big thing for me to study abroad. However, I had a clear objective of what I want to achieve and gain from this experience.

- Achieve academic excellence
Since I was selected as an exchange student for one of the top-ranked universities in the U.S., I had to keep up with other local smart students. Moreover, I aimed for above average.

- Make a lot of friends and talk a lot
One thing that I can't achieve by just studying is to raise my speaking ability. Therefore, I decided to attend events and parties as much as possible to make new international friends and to have a conversation.

First aim: Challenges in academic pursuit
So how did my academic life turned out to be?
The actual life as a student in university was harder than I had expected. The students enrolled in my class were all competitive and eager to speak up in the discussion class. Each week I was assigned to read more than 300 pages, along with questions I needed to solve. The exams were also highly demanding.
Gradually, I came up with my own way to go through this challenge. Here are the several ways.

1. Skim reading
For readings which seemed impossible to finish, read only the introduction and conclusion, and come back to the body later.

2. Form a study group
Studying with a friend and sharing information helps a lot, and it is one way to make friends.

3. Use voice recorder
Some professors speak tremendously fast. For such classes, I used the voice recorder and listened to it over and over to rewrite my notebook. This also increased my listening ability.

4. Join club
In order to enhance my discussion ability, I joined the Model United Nations club in the university. In this club, each participant played the role of a country, and discussed diplomatic issues in a group. Since the discussion was all in English with full of technical terms, the speaking skill that I gained from was directly useful for my academic field.


5. Never lose your motivation
Listening to the recorder repetitively was especially time-consuming and was a huge burden on me. However, these efforts are always worthwhile in the long run. I tried to sustain my motivation by returning back to my original goal of studying abroad, the goal to pursue academic excellence.

Second aim: Communication
Re-think Asia.

Besides in the academic field, this was one of the things I gained through my experience of studying abroad. Since Seattle is an Asian-friendly town and is filled with Asian shops and people, most of the students I made friends with were Asian.

At first, I thought spending more time with non-Asians is worthwhile during study abroad, since I am in the U.S. However, though their country being located in the same Asian region, I realized I had much less opportunity to talk with other Asians in Japan. By communicating with Asian students, eventually I grew interest in knowing more about the neighboring countries, especially China, whose population is the largest in Seattle Asian community.
Since then, I continue to study Chinese language and its society back in Waseda University.

Not only knowing about Asia, but also I grew interest in promoting the culture of Asia. Since I have been practicing tea ceremony from high school, I chose to promote this traditional Japanese culture through classes and events. This skill of tea ceremony was very useful to communicate with international students curious to know about Asia, and Japan itself.

tea ceremony.jpg

Making friends

So, how to make friends in the first place? Language difficulties are not a problem to dive in to a different society. When hanging out with my friends, it was usually the case that I am the only non-Chinese speaker while others are all speaking in Chinese. Though I could not understand what they were saying at all, I tried to ask for interpretation in order to join the conversation as much as possible. The eagerness to understand others and to express your own opinion is always the key to make friends in a foreign country.


What I gained overal

Studying abroad brings beneficial experience beyond language abilities. In the academic field, I gained not only a good grade, but also the logical way of thinking and writing, the spirit of competitiveness and the aggressiveness to speak up in class.

Moreover, I was able to accomplish my second aim of making friends and to talk a lot. Though they were mostly Chinese, I felt the culture and the people which still attract me presently.
Studying abroad is a once in a life experience. What you expect to gain and what you actually gain from varies among people. However, by setting a clear goal and keeping the motivation for accomplishment, everyone will be rewarded with a remarkable growth in yourself and friendship for lifetime.