On to the Study Abroad segment!
For the Sustainable Energy study abroad trip, I stayed in the mountain city of Matsuyama. Matsuyama is very much a country city, compared to Tokyo or Kyoto, but It is not like American country cities. Matsuyama still had a Livid Night life and a ton of attractions for young people. Our group was able to keep busy every single day of the trip.
We stayed in a shared housing provided by the university. We each had our own rooms, with air conditioning. Thank goodness! The Humidity is a little dreadful!
Since this course focused on Sustainable Energy in Japan, most of the studies in this trip revolved around different energy and technological systems in Japan. Each day yielded either a field trip, lecture, or cultural outing. We worked together with students from Ehime University and got to share in each other’s culture. During the Shinto Festival, we all assisted in hoisting the 2 Ton Kami Shrine for the day, with the help of 100 others from around the prefecture.
On our field trip to Yusahara, we traveled to a terraced rice farm in the mountains. Here we got to learn about the architecture involvement of irrigation in the terraced fields and learned about the culture aspect of Japan’s problems. In Japan, there is negative population growth, meaning that the youth are leaving the smaller cities, leaving only the elderly to perform jobs such as rice farmer. In time, this will have significant problems for Japan.
When I began the study abroad, I expected to learn technology in Solar farms, hydro power, etc. While we did learn about that information, we learned a great deal of Japan’s own culture. It was surprising to see different solutions to similar problems. For example, In America we are looking to solar power to increase our green clean energy. For Japan, solar power is not that applicable, so they are looking to Hydrogen facilities to assist in long term clean energy.
Studies aside, the most valuable information I learned was engineering from an international standpoint. It really opened my eyes to how things can be completed. Learning the cultural aspect turned out to be even more important than the engineering.
During one of the weekends, each student stayed in a homestay with a local family. My family was an older couple in their 40’s with no kids. I was unsure of what to expect, but upon meeting them, I had a spectacular time. Although the husband couldn’t speak good English, his wife was able to translate for us, and we had a lot in common. Conversation proved to be very fruitful and we had to force ourselves to stop talking in order to go to bed. On our day out, we traveled to Kurusan Observatory up on one of the mountain Islands, yielding one of the best views I have ever seen. The Islands of Japan are very mountainous and numerous. Pudget sound Islands look like child’s play in comparison.
Staying with a local family and eating something other than at a restaurant or 7-11 goodies was a refreshment and a learning experience at how a Japanese household operates.
When the homestay was completed, every student had a positive experience with their homestay.
Hiroshima was another big highlight of the trip for me personally. Given the situation of WW2, it always amazed me how far Japan and America have come as allies and I was humbled by the memorial. Seeing ground zero in person was surreal.
In summary, staying as part of the Japan study abroad taught me a lot about the international community. I learned about English teaching in Japan. Which I might consider if my current career plans fall through.
Advice that I would give for any students looking into a study abroad. I would say to experience as much as you can. Studying outside of America is a limited opportunity and you should take advantage of everything. If it is your first time traveling alone to another country, just remember that it is only a finite period of time. Soon you will return to your home and look back at your experiences. Make sure you fill your time with as many experiences as possible while traveling abroad.