Open your mind, or you will never know
By: Yusuke Ueshima, Student Contributor
Global Education Office
Richmond, VA (May 18, 2018) — Reflecting on my life before I came to the U.S., I had been passive, introverted, and afraid to challenge myself. I had lived with my family for 20 years in Japan and it was easy for me to keep staying in the same environment.
I made the decision to come to VCU because I wanted to put myself in a completely new situation where I would have to be independent and learn how to figure out problems by myself. I also wanted to improve my English skills. The 9 months I spent in the U.S. taught and changed me a lot.
When I came to the U.S., I faced some difficulties such as the differences in time management that I became aware of through living in the dormitory and the different teaching styles in class. I needed to change myself in order to solve them. In general, people in Japan culturally tend not to directly share their feelings or opinions with others that much because they try to read others’ minds first and take actions before asking or being asked. I had not usually asked anyone for help because I was given a hand by people around me without my knowing. I also didn’t want to interrupt people by asking them to take care of me.
In addition to the cultural difference, I was, of course, not a native speaker of the dominant language in the U.S. I needed to be more direct and depend on people around me such as friends, teachers, and administrators to understand that I was in trouble and help me figure it out.
It took some courage to ask for help at first; however, once I did, people were understanding. They were willing to assist me with my difficulties and told me what I should do step by step. Because of the help, I was able to relieve my anxiety. As my stress level decreased, I noticed my English was gradually getting better and I became confident communicating with others. I realized that I didn’t have to take it all on myself once I opened my mind and talked about my worries, which further encouraged me to talk more to people in English.
In order to gain as much knowledge as possible during my stay, I pushed myself to participate in various events, which is something I had not tried in Japan. Fortunately, GEO gives international students opportunities of cultural exchange including not only American culture but also international ones, as well. I was able to experience cultural differences and learn about lots of different countries.
I took the trip to Virginia Beach and went apple picking in the Blue Ridge Mountains so that I could see the vast nature which is quite different from Japan. Also, I took part in the Conversation Partner and Friendship Family programs and volunteered with Rise Against Hunger in Midlothian, VA, which enabled me to observe various lifestyles and American people’s views toward social issues. I would not have had the chance to experience them if I had not taken action.
Through the whole experience of studying abroad, I learned how valuable it is to challenge yourself to find something new. It doesn’t matter what exactly the new thing you find is and if it is small or big. The process itself is important. Taking one step beyond where you usually are for the possibility of developing yourself is crucial. No matter what, you should keep moving forward. Otherwise you may regret it.
Yusuke Ueshima, graduated from VCU English Language Program in Spring 2018 through the study abroad program of Digital Hollywood University in Tokyo, Japan.
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