Sony, White-Williams Scholar College Connection Class of 2013 and Central High School graduate, is currently in her Junior year at Lafayette College. Over the recent winter break, Sony took advantage of an amazing opportunity to earn college credit while traveling Japan. In addition to majoring in English and Art, Sony studies Japanese Language, and was naturally drawn to the interim course which offered the chance at immersion in Japanese language, art, and culture. Upon completing her education, Sony plans to pursue a career in law, where her interest in cultural diversity will definitely serve her well. Read on for a fascinating look at Sony’s trip!
What part(s) of Japan did you visit?
“I traveled to Osaka, Hiroshima, and Kyoto (in that order respectively) and each city had something unique to offer. Osaka, for example, is called the “Kitchen of the Realm” because it once was a center for rice trade during the Edo period of Japan’s history. Osaka continues to live up to that name as there are hundreds of restaurants all around the city that sell tasty food! I certainly got to try many delicacies myself, including a special pancake called “Okonomiyaki.”
At Hiroshima, I had the privilege of seeing many of the memorials dedicated to the lives of people who were affected by the atomic bomb that landed on August 6th, 1945. To this day, an atomic bomb dome that survived the blast remains standing, and is a symbol of peace at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
In Kyoto, I was able to see many shrines, gardens, palaces, and castles that inhabited this city that was once the capital of Japan (before Tokyo). The Fushimi Inari Shrine was my favorite, because it sits on the mountain of Inari. This shrine depicted many foxes.”
What made you interested in studying abroad? How did you find out about this opportunity?
“Part of the appeal in going abroad was that I had never traveled outside of the United States or even been on a plane (yes, this was my first plane ride). So the prospect of potentially meeting new people and immersing myself in a language and culture I had never known before was very appealing to me.
I heard about this interim trip program from my Japanese professor. This opportunity is only offered once every two years, so I was lucky enough to apply the following semester and be accepted into the program. Beforehand, I had studied Japanese art and architecture, to familiarize myself with Japan’s early history, and what I could expect to see when I did go to Japan.”
What advice would you give to a PF Collegian who is thinking about studying abroad?
“Go for it! These opportunities may come once in a lifetime. If another language is spoken in the country you want to visit, learn as much of it as you can. And when you do, don’ be afraid to talk to local people in the area and try things you’ve never tried before. And as always, make sure you have enough finances and resources at your disposal when you plan to go abroad. I was able to afford this trip thanks to Lafayette College’s financial aid office and funds from Philadelphia Futures.”
Why did you choose to study abroad in Japan?
“From a very young age, I grew up with Japanese pop culture including television, music, games – and I vowed to one day learn the language and finally visit the country where these things originated. As an art major, I also wanted to get a chance to look at ancient and historical sites up close. Overall, I wanted to have a better understanding of Japan by experiencing its traditions/modern culture and seeing a bit of its history with my very own eyes.”
What are some of your favorite moments from your time in Japan?
“I have too many! But If I must pinpoint just a few, they would be visiting historical landmarks, like Osaka Castle, home of warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi (the second great unifier of Japan, so he’s called). And of course, petting the deer near the Buddhist temples at Miyajima, an island nearby Hiroshima. The deer are significant in Buddhism because Buddha gave his first sermon at a deer park. A word of caution though: these deer will eat anything, including paper! Several people had their tour maps eaten. Also, somewhere towards the end of my trip, I went back to Osaka and took a ride on a Ferris Wheel, which was definitely a highlight!”
What is one valuable lesson or skill that you learned during your trip abroad?
“In Japan, I was able to utilize and grow my knowledge and comprehension of the Japanese language. Speaking in Japanese to native speakers can be daunting, and I didn’t always speak with the most proper grammatical sentences. But, that’s to be expected. Language barriers, wherever they may be, can be broken when you take the initiative to break them.
Being abroad, in a country where English was not the first language helped me see, and showed me, firsthand, that I was part of a bigger world, where diverse customs, beliefs, and ideas are practiced and respected.”
If you’re a Philadelphia Futures Collegian who’d like to share one of your most interesting college experiences, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.