Katherine Huang

NAME: Katherine Huang
MAJOR: Business Administration/Marketing
PROGRAM: ISEP Tokyo National University
EMAIL: katherineh885@gmail.com

BIO: Please tell us about you and why you chose to study abroad.

I’m Katherine Huang, and I studied in Japan in Fall 2022 as a third year business marketing major. I came to SJSU the fall of 2020 when life was heavily impacted by Covid-19. My first two years of university were compromised due to the pandemic. Going into my third year, I was set on taking opportunities whenever I could. After talking to a few friends about their amazing experiences abroad, I only grew more excited. Eventually, I chose Japan, because I have always been intrigued by their culture, such as their food, car scene, cultural festivals, public transportation, nature/national parks, etc. I wanted to put myself in an unfamiliar environment to see what I’m capable of and to challenge myself to grow. Spoiler alert: I grew. A lot. And now I have precious memories of my time abroad. It was a lot of work, but I don’t regret any of it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat! It was truly one of the best choices I ever made for myself.

CAREER: What skills did you learn/sharpen during your study abroad experience?

Reflect on how your study abroad experience and the skills, knowledge, or networking has enhanced or contributed to your life back on campus or home.

I was placed in an environment that pushed me to grow my soft skills. The saying is true: You get out what you put in. Once you’re abroad, you have to put yourself out there and take risks. I was nervous about making friends and building a community with people so different from me. I didn’t want to miss out though, so I took opportunities to talk to people in the dorms, in class, around campus, and even when I ran into them at the train station. I was able to meet people from all walks of life—people from other cities, states, and countries. We still keep in touch, and there’s a mutual understanding that we’ll be there to help each other if we’re ever in the same area.

Additionally, I still keep in touch with a professor! We bonded over a shared passion for Japanese sports cars, and he introduced me to another student who showed me around the local car scene. Being able to talk and network is a skill that I was able to hone, and it is arguably one of the most important skills for marketing majors. Now, I feel much more comfortable and confident initiating conversations.

GOALS: What were your goals for studying abroad?

Reflect on the personal, academic, and professional goals that you had set out to achieve on your study abroad experience?

Personally, I wanted to branch out and meet new people. I was looking forward to a different pace of life and connecting with a new community. I didn’t just learn about Japanese culture, I met people who taught me all about their cultures and countries. It was a beautiful bonding experience meeting people and celebrating our differences just as much as similarities.

Academic-wise, I was excited about being on a completely new campus with new faces, new professors, new faculty, and courses that aren’t available at SJSU. For example, I was able to learn about Japan’s culture and society. Not only was this course fun, but it was also very helpful. I plan on working in Japan in the future, so learning about the culture was insightful.

Regarding professional goals, I was interested in observing Japan’s work culture first hand. There is no doubt that the work ethic in that country is well known, and I wanted to experience it and become inspired. Before I went abroad, I felt pretty burnt out in a lot of areas, including with my career. My goal was to come back to the states with renewed vigor, ready to give 100% to my career and education.

PERSONAL GROWTH: What was the biggest impact that your study abroad experience had on you?

I truly feel like I came back wiser and braver. Being abroad pushed me to be fearless and spontaneous. I’m graduating next spring, and the reality of adulthood is starting to set in. The unknown is daunting, but I feel brave enough to face it. Japan started off as completely new, unexplored territory for me, but within four months, I was calling it home. My experience in Japan has taught me that I’m capable of much more than I had ever imagined.

I also have a newfound gratitude for things in the US that weren’t in Japan. For example, drive thrus! And In-n-Out. Costco $1.50 hot dogs. And ranch!!! I missed ranch so much. It’s my favorite sauce. In all seriousness though, I really do appreciate everything I have now.

ACADEMICS: How would you describe your academic experience abroad?

Share what courses you chose to take abroad and the strategies you used to ensure your academic success. How has the experience impacted your academics now that you have returned to SJSU?

I took four courses: Leadership, Creativity, and Organizational Renewal; Japanese Society, Social Media and Business; Business Communication and Productivity. First and foremost, I made friends in class. Having friends can help hold you accountable and incentivize you to come to class. Moreover, being familiar with classmates can make group projects much more smooth and enjoyable.

I also made sure I was recognizable to professors. I participated, asked questions, talked to them after class, and built a relationship with them. Establishing a connection with professors is imperative to academic success. It’s easier to ask for help when you’re familiar with your teachers.

Now that I’m back at SJSU, I still strive to be present and engaged in class for my peers and professors.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How has your immersion impacted your perspectives on the world?

Studying abroad helped me discover a happiness I’ve never known before. Despite this experience being for me, I didn’t feel like the main character—and that’s a good thing! It felt so freeing to decentralize myself; it made my worries feel much smaller. I was more intent on learning about other people and other cultures; learning more about myself was just a byproduct of the process. Every individual I met is so unique and has a story that has impacted me. I am a mosaic of everyone I met; I carry little pieces of them with me.

Since coming back, I still keep that open mind and eagerness to learn about others. It’s amazing how much you can absorb when you listen more and talk less. Going abroad has humbled me and reminded me that I’m a student of life above all else. The vast world has so much to offer, and there’s always opportunities to learn and grow if you’re willing to look and listen.

FUTURE: How has study abroad prepared you for your future?

I’ve always been in a rush to grow up and reach the next milestone, but being abroad has taught me to really slow down and smell the roses. Not having a car in Japan meant I had to walk most places, and although I didn’t like it at first, I grew to enjoy it. Walking allowed me to take the whole world in, soak up the sun’s warmth, and appreciate the journey.

I also grew more conscious about financials, and financial literacy is such an important skill for adulthood. Being abroad made me aware about currency exchange rates, my spending/saving habits, how much I’m willing to pay for experiences versus material items, and more.

TIPS: What advice would you give to a future Global Spartan?

Take a leap of faith. If you are on the fence, just go for it. You have a community of people who will support you and welcome you with open arms, whether that’s Study Abroad Alumni, SJSU faculty, host university faculty, host families, the local community, other students, etc. You are never alone in your endeavors, and you have so many resources available to you! Put in the work, and your efforts will come to fruition. I hope you study abroad; it’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Alexey Kolechkin

Alexey Kolechkin

Alexey Kolechkin
Major: Finance
Term Abroad: Fall 2022 and Spring 2023
Program / Location: SJSU Exchange Sophia University, Tokyo Japan
IG: @alexey.kolechkin

Why did you want to study abroad? 
I’ve been interested in Japanese culture ever since taking Japanese language classes in high school, so I wanted to experience living in Japan firsthand, improve my language abilities, and meet lots of new people.

What has been your most surprising, positive, or challenging experience abroad?
Realizing how much money I’ve been spending, which is ironic considering that living in Japan is fairly cheap right now since the dollar is so strong compared to the yen. But since I go out a lot, whether it’s exploring/traveling or shopping or just hanging out with friends, I end up spending a lot of money on experiences. It’s not something I regret, since thankfully I have enough savings to cover it and I’m making lots of great memories, but it is something I will have to keep in check later on.

Any advice to potential study abroad students?
Seek growth and learning through discomfort. Living abroad for an extended period of time can be scary and challenging, but it’s one of the best opportunities for growth and self-development that you will ever have in your life, so take advantage of it and go somewhere exciting!

How are you managing your academic success abroad during the pandemic?
I minimized the amount of classes I’m taking so that I could put more focus on each one while dealing with the challenges of studying abroad. There is almost always something new that pops up that I have to deal with, or exciting experiences or events that I want to participate in, so I realized I had to take a lighter course load to have time for everything and still be able to succeed academically, as well as succeed in my other goals.

What are some ways that you are interacting with the local community ?
I’ve made friends with several Japanese students and they’ve shown me around different parts of Tokyo and taken me to places like restaurants, bars, karaoke, observatories, shrines, and temples. Having local connections really helps to better integrate with the local community because they show me how to act, speak, and what is considered acceptable and not acceptable.

What are some tips for managing your health and safety while traveling during the pandemic?
Take the normal precautions as you would anywhere else; wear a mask, wash your hands, try to avoid crowds if you can, and make smart choices