Category Archives: New Experience

The Universality of Human Connection

By Anthea Xiao

At a young age, I was introduced to and fascinated by Japanese culture through the channel of Japanese animations such as Studio Ghibli films and Doraemon. Eager to learn more about the Japanese language and customs, I enrolled in Japanese as my foreign language class and took the initiative to study Japanese culture on my own. My Japanese teacher recognized my passion and introduced me to an exchange program, which allowed students to live with host families and experience life as a Japanese High School student. I quickly seized the opportunity, and in the summer of 2016, I embarked on an unforgettable journey to Kanazawa, Japan.

Prior to flying to Japan, I diligently memorized Japanese phrases applicable for specific situations, read countless articles regarding Japanese etiquette, and even watched host-exchange “horror-stories” online from other students to prepare myself for any undesirable scenarios.

My heart was leaping out of my chest with anxiety and excitement when I saw my host-family waving the sign “ようこそ, アンセア!” (Welcome, Anthea!) at airport gate. During the initial stage of my stay, my host-exchange experience was exceeded beyond my imagination and expectations. I tasted a diverse array of authentic Japanese cuisines (a superb bowl of ramen was only $5 USD!), I quickly bonded with classmates through organizations such as the student acapella and traditional tea ceremony club, and I was able to improve my language ability through practicing colloquial Japanese outside of a classroom setting.

However, despite enjoying my host situation, I found it difficult to feel completely at ease with my host-family. I had read in textbooks that it is impolite to address Japanese people in an intimate or casual manner upon initial greetings. Therefore, although my host-parents asked me to address them as “mother” and “father” just like my host-sister did, I insisted on calling them Mr. and Mrs. Yoshida in fear of breaching their existing family structure.

The phrase “迷惑” (meiwaku) means to burden or to cause inconvenience for others. In Japan, a collective and harmony-focused society, causing meiwaku is a taboo and could signal a person as self-centered and uncouth. To avoid being seen as a meiwaku to my host-family, I refrained from seeking for help when I had trouble finding the way home from school or did not understand how to operate machine devices at home.

Continue reading The Universality of Human Connection

Learning about Islam Firsthand

By Stephanie Corrigan

My initial experience with the Middle East is defined by my time spent as an international exchange student in Ankara, Turkey; a time when  I encountered new, distinctive experiences that have molded me into the person I am today. This story begins with my experience participating in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, a fully-funded U.S. State Department exchange program. I lived with a loving host family, took intensive language courses, and used my newly acquired cultural awareness to assist with advancing U.S. relations abroad.
I was met with various challenges, many coming in the form of cultural misunderstandings. I was now the outsider in a foreign land, questioned by locals about my background and judged by my appearance and dress. My beliefs were challenged everyday, as Turks would ask me about American culture, politics, and values. I dedicated my summer to comprehending Turkish culture, while sharing bits and pieces of my experiences as an American. Studying abroad challenged my preconceived ideas, fostered my appreciation for diversity, and made me more understanding of different lifestyles and beliefs, especially in areas concerning familial hierarchies and relationships, unique cuisine, and a distinctive religion.
Prior to living in Turkey, the most knowledge I had of Islam was what I read in textbooks or saw on CNN. My exposure to the major world religion and its traditions took on great significance when I participated in Ramadan. The fasting ritual was incredibly beautiful to me, as my host family rose in the early hours at the sound of the ezan, or call to prayer. After being exposed to Islam and the Turkish people, I found myself more understanding of their lifestyle and beliefs. I am sympathetic to struggles of Islamophobia, as well as more impartial when analyzing media. While many Western news outlets present Muslim populations in general terms of terrorist activity, my time in Turkey proved quite the contrary. I have been fortunate to have had meaningful experiences with people who are frequently misunderstood in the non-Muslim world.
Studying abroad at such an early age also shaped my development and career goals, positively impacting every aspect of my culture and beliefs – and about Islam in particular. It ignited a desire to further explore and understand the region of the Middle East and North Africa. This compulsion led me to spearheading a family vacation to Egypt in December 2014, which ultimately altered my parents’ views of the region for the better. My family and I regard our experiences in Egypt as some of the best memories we possess, with the people we met being a significant influential factor. Both trips taught me to reflect on my culture from the perspective of another, and to this day, I consider every opposing idea as a precious opportunity to learn and grow.

Stephanie is an undergraduate senior who is currently studying Political Science, with the hopes of adding on Public Relations. She is from Orlando, Florida and loves to spend time outside, whether hiking or exploring a new city, as well as practicing her photography, writing in her travel blog, or planning her next backpacking trip abroad.

Explore LA Through Art

By Erika Gomi

I’ve come to realize that going to school in Los Angeles is not so bad (despite the heat). LA is a huge city just begging to be explored. There will always be a new restaurant to try or a screening to go see. One of the many things to do in this city is to visit some of the many museums. I, sadly, have not visited many of them, but the ones I’ve been to have all been fun experiences.

One of the most famous museums is probably the Getty Museum. There are two campuses: the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. The Getty Center is a huge museum at the top of a hill and has rooms dedicated to art like old renaissance paintings and ancient sculptures. What I remember most from my visit was the garden. While the museum is famous for its art pieces, it also has a beautiful garden full of flowers and some meandering dirt paths. There is also another part of the museum called the Getty Villa out by Malibu. It’s much smaller than the Getty Center, but if you go on a sunny day, LA does not get more beautiful than this. The Getty Villa is off the Pacific Coast Highway, up a long winding road in the hills off the highway. Once there, your view will open up to an expansive villa that overlooks the ocean; it will feel like you’ve been transported to a summer vacation home in Italy. The museum is filled with Greek and Roman art and even houses an actual mummy. The Villa also has a garden in back with big columns and a beautiful view of the ocean. I highly recommend going on a sunny day.

In addition to the Getty, there are museums like LACMA, MOCA, and the Broad. These museums exhibit more contemporary art unlike the Getty’s classical pieces. I’ve only been to LACMA, but I’ve heard amazing things about all three. LACMA is probably the most famous out of the three with its iconic streetlight sculpture out front. When I first went, I didn’t realize how huge the museum was. LACMA is made up of several buildings and it takes hours to get through even one. It was fun when I went though because they had a special exhibit on the famous movie director Guillermo del Toro. The exhibit was full of his inspirations – all very creepy. There were even life size models and costumes of characters from his films like Crimson Peak and Pan’s Labyrinth. I want to go to LACMA again so I can explore the rest of the museum. You definitely need more than one day.

Continue reading Explore LA Through Art