Stanford in Kyoto, Spring 2017-18
Major: Comparative Literature and Japanese
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo:
Why did you choose to study abroad in Kyoto?
Having studied various aspects of Japanese culture, history, and literature the past few years, studying in Kyoto seemed the natural culmination of so many moments of study limited to the classroom. Additionally, with aspirations to continue working in fashion in Japan after graduation and a strong desire to get away from the home campus and re-center myself from a viewpoint from afar, many different personal reasons and interests also drove me to Kyoto.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Kyoto?
While there were certainly many moments like this and the experience seemed to flash before my eyes, I came into study abroad expecting the breakneak pacing I had come to associate with Japan in terms of everyday life and work and was pleasantly surprised by how calm the pace of the everyday was in Kyoto. Whether it be the ability to just sit down by the Kamo River with friends after school, wander through the center of the city, or enjoy the early mornings of my neighborhood, Kyoto in its unique groundedness and ability to be very personal at times surprised me as a refreshing turn from the endless bustle of Stanford and what I had come to imagine of several aspects of Japan.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Kyoto?
In studying abroad in Kyoto I found that it was easier to establish a more personal grasp on Japan, its culture, and its people that laid out of the scope of academic courses taken studying Japan on the home campus. With this grasp, breaking down monolithic assumptions about Japan and learning how to engage with different perspectives and viewpoints on the world especially with professors, guests, and people in their own unique fields and interests had a significant impact on me and my studies.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
The most important revelations abroad about myself probably centered on how Stanford had significantly changed my character, values, and priorities over the course of three years. Being in another environment for so long made those changes apparent almost everyday and especially their negative and positive impacts. While growing to fulfill personal responsibilities in living alone and also in engaging with another peoples' culture was important in terms of what I learned about myself, at its core the study abroad experience provided a space for reflecting on my own development what I continue to value and yearn for in my future that would not have been allowed had I just stayed on the home campus.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging experience I encountered while abroad was definitely establishing a sense of belonging so that I could truly exist and enjoy the moment. While numerous new friends and a caring host family allowed my time abroad to be defined by feeling welcome in Japan, it was especially during the internship period where I was left in a new city distant from those connections and in a work environment that was completely non-English that I felt isolated and lonely. Yet, in learning how to reach out to others and getting out of my comfort zone during my time living alone , I learned countless lessons about how I handle myself in a real world environment, what my ideal work-life balance should be, and what at the end of the day is important and worth pursuing.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
While this was not my first time staying in Japan for an extended period of time and I was familiar in many ways with various components of the culture, the biggest cultural adjustment was learning to shift how I viewed communicating my emotions and my distance to others. While many things are allowed to foreigners who are still just learning Japanese, in using it in environments requiring so many levels of consideration in terms of respect, distance, and what is appropriate to convey and not unlike in English, it was a continuously conscious effort to truly attempt to identify intent, real emotion, and ways of establishing a self with others and understanding others simultaneously doing the same in their own way.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Kyoto?
My favorite part of my everyday life was having the time to truly engage my own interests and wants outside of the pressures of Stanford's hustle and grind. For example, supported by an academic schedule that involved a course on design, I had time each week to design and create cut and sew patternwork - culminating in several pieces of designed clothing by the end of my time abroad that had benefited by traditional fabrics available in Kyoto and Japan.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Kyoto?
My most memorable experience I had abroad was getting coffee with one of the local faculty, Professor Tomita, who taught a course on Zen and design. Having time each week to explore fashion design in ways I wouldn't have either found or been allowed in a course at the home campus, to get perspectives from someone with years of industry experience and connections that could inform my own aspirations within fashion, and also seeing new takes on pedagogy, learning and teaching was incredibly fruitful.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Reflective, restorative, insightful, memorable, invaluable
What was your favorite food you had in Kyoto?
My favorite food had to be the cheap kushiyaki - grilled and skewered meats and vegetables - that defined many late nights in izakayas with friends. After a long day of studying in class, walking, or just surviving the heat and humidity of Kyoto in Spring, a cold lemon sour and skewered chicken heart went a long way to not only restoring the soul but also opening the door to many nights learning about those around me and also myself.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
As a hypebeast that collects sneakers, the most valuable item I took with me on the program was my pair of red Supreme x Nike Air More UpTempos.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Kyoto?
While I had enjoyed Japanese rock, jazz, and hip hop before going abroad, in my time abroad I found a deeper appreciation for Japanese rock and specifically The Blue Hearts. I can't count the amount of times we sung Linda Linda as our go to sadboy anthem.
Every Stanford undergraduate should give serious consideration to studying overseas.
Regardless of the academic path you choose, you will be enriched by time spent in another country. Achieving cultural literacy and gaining substantive understanding of other perspectives in the world will deepen your awareness of yourself, your educational goals, and your own society. Nearly one-half of each graduating class studies abroad through one of Stanford's overseas programs.
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