Pioneer adapts, thrives in Japan
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – For years, Mikala Bennett, a Sheboygan, Wisconsin native, had an interest in traveling to Japan. With University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s affordable education abroad opportunities, the now senior criminal justice and accounting major has made that dream a reality. In September of 2016, she took a leap of faith and began her yearlong education abroad trip to Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies’ campus in Nagasaki, Japan.
“I had been dreaming about studying abroad in Japan since high school,” Bennett said. “There were other places in Japan I could have studied, but honestly, I chose Nagasaki because it was the least expensive – which is perfect for broke college students with a passion for traveling.”
Since she arrived in Nagasaki last fall, Bennett has had the opportunity to immerse herself into Japanese culture. She is currently enrolled in a Japanese language course, two courses on kanji, the system of Japanese writing using Chinese characters, and Japanese history and culture. She has also found herself hiking the many mountains surrounding campus.
“The best part about the entire experience is actually realizing how different I have become throughout the year,” Bennett said. “I look back on who I was at the beginning of my trip, and I was a completely different person. There were many times I became homesick and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to last the entire year here. But it’s amazing how easily people, like myself, can adapt to their surroundings. I now find myself having Japanese mannerisms that I do without thinking, and craving Japanese food that I hated the first month I arrived.”
Despite her initial doubts and hesitation, Bennett has enjoyed her time abroad. Although Bennett had originally considered studying abroad for one semester due to the fear of being away from friends and family, she followed her instincts and applied for the full year. Now with nearly a full year in a once unfamiliar country, she has established new friendships, knowledge and memories that she otherwise would not have found.
“I have made so many lifelong friends with people from all over the world such as France, Canada, England, China, and of course, Japan,” she said. “That’s what I love about study abroad programs. They give you the opportunity to meet many people with different cultures who all share a common interest in the country you’re visiting. This entire year has been an unforgettable experience.”
Bennet is just one of many students from across the United States that UW-Platteville Education Abroad has been helping study at the NUFS since 1995. Since then, students from more than 80 universities nationwide have chosen to study abroad in Nagasaki through UW-Platteville Education Abroad. Students can spend a semester, academic year or calendar year at the university.
As part of the education abroad program review, UW-Platteville’s Robert Johnson, associate outreach specialist of education abroad programs, and Dr. Marcia Harr Bailey, associate professor of business, recently visited NUFS’ campus. During the four-day stay, Johnson and Bailey were given the opportunity to tour classrooms and facilities, sit in on classes and meet with students in the program. Classes included Japanese language and society, film, history, economics and more.
“The thing about NUFS is that it’s a language school,” Johnson said. “Everybody comes to the school knowing that learning a new language is challenging, so the students all share that common bond. It brings them together.”
Program reviews of UW-Platteville Education Abroad programs are conducted every seven years for faculty and staff to gauge how the program is going as well as discuss the opportunity for improvements. Much like in the past, this year’s review went without problem, and Johnson and Bailey were impressed with what they saw. With a total enrollment of roughly 800 students, international students from around the world account for nearly 40 percent of the student population, bringing a unique international perspective to NUFS.
“The city of Nagasaki is pretty much bred for international relations,” Johnson said. “The university, itself, has one of the largest international student populations, and I can understand why after viewing some of their academic performances, touring classrooms and seeing the professors in action. Because NUFS is a small campus, it fits very well with UW-Platteville. There’s a bond between students and faculty, and there is a strong sense of community.”
The current NUFS campus was built in 1996, and is located on the northern border of Nagasaki City and its suburb of Togitsu. Nagasaki, a city of about 500,000 people on the western island of Kyushu, is built around a natural harbor and climbs up the surrounding steep hills.
With five other long-term education abroad opportunities offered directly through UW-Platteville, and several other short-term programs, students have numerous opportunities to take the same leap of faith that Bennett did last fall. Nearing the end of her education abroad visit, Bennett has words of advice for other students considering studying abroad.
“If you want to travel and see the world, college is the best time to do it,” Bennett said. “One day, we are all going to have full-time jobs, and most of us won’t have the opportunity to live in, or even have time to travel to, another country. Don’t let any fear you have control you.”
Visit www.uwplatt.edu/education-abroad for more information on UW-Platteville’s education abroad opportunities.
Written by: Amanda Bertolozzi, Writer/Editor, Communications, 608-342-7121, email@example.com