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Off-Campus Study

Notes from Abroad: Bella in Japan

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Bella Loeb ’16, an Asian studies major currently studying abroad at ACM Japan..

My name is Bella Loeb, and I am currently a junior studying abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. Before this program, I had never had the opportunity to come to Japan, nor an opportunity to be in an environment where I could continuously and effectively use my language skills. As an Asian Studies major attempting to perfect my language skills, I cannot begin to express the significance of my new environment in my learning of Japanese language and culture during the time I have been in Tokyo. Living in Japan and with a host family and using Japanese every day has been incredibly difficult, but also very helpful for me to become more comfortable and confident with speaking and understanding Japanese.

            On that note, I would like to say that living with a host family has been both very rewarding and incredibly difficult. For people considering studying abroad in the future, the choice of living with a host family may be one of the most important you will make, as it will have a huge impact on your study abroad experience. The advice I would give on this subject is just to really know and understand yourself, and the expectations you have of your time abroad.

Since my host family does not speak any English, I have had to struggle to communicate my thoughts and feelings in my second language since I moved in, and at the beginning I always had this feeling that I was somehow doing everything wrong. However, what was valuable about this experience was that I was able to see my language skills grow over time, and to learn more about myself and the lifestyle I am confortable with, and to learn how important it is to adapt to suit my environment, especially for the sake of learning and understanding other people’s cultures and perspectives.

Living in Japan has been an incredible and indescribable experience. I feel that I am accomplishing my goals, and that this adventure came at the perfect time in my life. Everyday I feel incredibly grateful and humbled to be able to live in Japan and to participate in the program. I am especially grateful to Ms. McGowan and the Margaret Thompson Pavelka scholarship for supporting me in my travels and studies. I am excited that I will be able to spend one more semester at Waseda before I return home for my senior year at Lake Forest, and I can only image how much I will have learned and changed by the time I come home.