Zackary participated in the Japan Study Tour program in June 2019. He spent three weeks with other uLethbridge students visiting and studying in Sapporo. After this trip, Zackary is poised to experience more of the world.
Why did you choose your program and destination?
I chose to go on a study tour because it seemed like a good way to get a new experience and give me an idea about what it might be like to do a semester exchange later on. I chose Japan because I am learning the Japanese language and have always found the Japanese culture interesting.
What was the most memorable experience of your time abroad?
I'm not sure if it's the most memorable, but it is definitely up there. It was one of the last few days we were there and I went to an Ainu museum, the Ainu are like Japan's First Nations people. While at the museum, there were many middle school classes also touring the museum and a few things happened. At one point a young middle school girl walked up to me and said "gaijin', which means foreigner in Japanese. I found that quite humorous because it is not really a polite way of saying foreigner, and it was this little kid who likely didn't know any better saying it to me. The most memorable part about the museum trip however, was when a handful young children noticed my tattoos along my arms. Before I knew what was happening, they started to flock around me and were so excited to see my tattoos they just started poking at them. I'll never forget the sight of about 15 young children surrounding me to stare at my tattoos. They were so entranced, it was so adorable. Tattoos were just something they had likely never seen before!
Were there any challenges? How did you overcome or cope with them?
I was not faced with many challenges. The only one I can think of was the language barrier, and how I overcame that was just going with the flow. Even though sometimes we couldn't understand each other, we respected each other and did our best to communicate.
Has this education abroad experience helped you personally, academically or professionally?
I think it has helped me personally the most.
Going to Japan and being immersed in their culture has made me more conscious of others and other cultures.
I have also grown more confident in speaking with others and in making new friends.
What was your experience like when you returned home?
After I returned home I felt a bit empty inside. I had experienced so much just to come back to my regular life. After this trip, I knew that I wanted more. I want to experience more, see more, and meet more new people.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken even more pictures and even more videos than the plethora that I already have.
I wish I could have captured every single moment of my time there.
Would you recommend trying an education abroad program to other students?
If you have considered it even once, I recommend that you do it. It is an experience unlike any other. If money is an issue, there are scholarships to help you out.
You absolutely cannot put a price on an experience like this.
You will make so many new friends, try so many new foods, and maybe even decide to pick up a new language. However, all of that can only happen if you go abroad!