The Cougar Chronicle

International student reflects on her study abroad experience

Maki Amano poses for photograph on a sunny day at CSUSM.

Maki Amano poses for photograph on a sunny day at CSUSM.

Photo by Angelica Peña

Photo by Angelica Peña

Maki Amano poses for photograph on a sunny day at CSUSM.

Kathleen Caprio, Features Writer

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Maki Amano landed in California from thousands of miles away from her home in Yokohama, Japan. This became her first opportunity to study abroad.  

Her experience as a child sparked a hunger in her to see more of the culture of California and  gain more of an integrated English learning experience.

In Japan, students are required to learn English as early as middle school, “ … It was mandatory, so we had to study English. In Japan, I think the education is focused on the glamour of writing. So, I think there was almost no opportunity to speak or to have a native speaker…”

Amano studied English in middle school, high school and more recently at Rikkyo University. Majoring in International Business, Amano was given a choice to study English at a higher level and ultimately came to her decision, “…when I decided to study abroad. I wanted to study English. I wanted to go to America… I liked this California culture, so I chose this school.”

Of course studying abroad is an excursion that is costly and for some individuals, such as Amano this opportunity can be difficult to discuss with parents. “At first they didn’t allow me to study abroad. Because it is a little expensive and also they were worried about me living alone in the other country, but they also asked me to decide on a goal or aim to study abroad. I talked to them about why… then they allowed me to study abroad.”

The challenges of studying abroad, however, did not end there. Culture shock and language barriers was still a challenge for Amano.

“I think Japanese people are really shy… I think Japanese people want to become friends with native speakers, but yeah most of the people don’t have confidence to speak English. Also native speakers speak so fast, and sometimes I can’t catch the conversation.”

By forging her own adaptation and through the kindness of strangers, Amano is enjoying what California has to offer.

“Now I’m living in the dorm so the roomates are really kind. One of the roomates is really interested in Japanese culture… They talked to me a lot, so then yes, I could make friends. It’s the first time for me and also… I tried to be active. I tried to make a friend and then now I could make friends and I could talk about myself or my experience…”.

This study abroad experience not only expanded her social and cultural capital, but for Amano it is also a time for self-growth.

“I think it was busy in Japanese life, because I had a class and I had a part time job. But here I could focus on what I really want to do…”.

From the personal experience of Amano, it can be seen clearly that studying abroad is not only a challenge, but also an investment in discovering one’s own sense of self, “I feel free… I think studying abroad is time to know myself…”

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