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Japan Exchange

Nicole Pyszka
International experiences at Huron have shaped me into the person I am today.

People are always surprised to hear I’m studying Japanese.  I can’t say I blame them; it can be hard enough to keep up with what’s going on around you, much less another country so far away. However, the best way to learn about yourself is to learn about the world around you. International experiences at Huron have shaped me into the person I am today.

In my third year, I went on a one yearlong foreign exchange through Huron University College to Kwansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya, Japan. It’s hard to imagine what a big decision it is to go abroad by yourself for an entire year and it’s even harder to illustrate how amazing it was. I celebrated Japanese holidays that I hadn’t known existed, and sampled local food that I had never seen before.  Mountains appeared on every horizon and I took the train to school, and bowed to others instead of shaking hands.  I snapped more pictures than I could store, and had the support of my Huron community because my professors would email me to ask how I was doing.  Moreover, I felt challenged more than I ever had before which meant I was able growing in new ways.  I’ve become a braver and more open person, and I’ve learned the importance of living every day as an adventure, no matter where you are.

However, when you’re a Huron student going abroad isn’t the only way to get globally involved.  Our peer guide program pairs international students with local Huron students for various trips and events.This is a great chance to meet new friends from around the world!

Language learners practice their developing skills with native speakers, in weekly conversational circles while Huron language professors know you by name and always have their doors open helping students achieve their linguistic goals.

Finally, there are many events held celebrating different cultures like French Day. Sample delicious French pastries and cheeses, or Japan Day, where you can try on a kimono and participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.  These types of resources helped me to prepare for my exchange trip, and now I stay involved and practice in everything I’ve learned. There are some things you can’t learn in a classroom! Exchange trips provide moments that fill in these missing parts.  After all, learning a new language is about connecting with people, so what better way than to join a community who encourages diversity and creates many opportunities for you to learn from each other.

Furthermore, Huron University College sees the value of student’s international involvement and embraces this opportunity.

In my fourth year, I was honoured to be nominated by my language professors to be one of two students from Ontario chosen to participate in this year’s 2018 Kakehashi Project as a cultural diplomat. Funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan, the Kakehashi Project brings students from Canada to Japan for a week to promote mutual understanding and friendship.  I was able to experience so many different parts of Japanese culture, from the busy streets of Tokyo to quiet hot springs, and shrines alongside Japanese university students.  It was a great privilege to be chosen as a participant and I’ll never forget the kindness and generosity shown by the Japanese government in wanting to strengthen the bond of global friendship we share.

Although Huron is known for its small-sized campus, the amount of resources and support available to students with an interest in international affairs goes beyond London, Ontario – and even Canada. So, when people are surprised by my choice of major, it’s because Japan is unique to our culture.   I am a long way from home – it makes me smile, thanks to Huron, it doesn’t feel far away at all.