Home: Hunan University
Major: Computer Science
Home: Hunan University
Major: Computer Science
At a graduation ceremony this month at Arizona State University (ASU), Mahiro Watanabe took center stage. The SAF Scholar, who had earned honor roll status in the Global Launch program, had been elected by his teachers to give a speech.
“He was outstanding! I’m truly not just saying that either,” said Claire McLaughlin, Lead International Educator at Global Launch for ASU. “It was so heartfelt that it gave me goose bumps.” -- So, we just had to celebrate and share his remarks:
Good afternoon everyone -- instructors, classmates, and friends. Today I am so honored to speak in front of you all. To begin with, the most important thing I want to say about Global Launch is the opportunity I have had to meet so many friends from all over the world.
Mahiro's highlights of his study abroad experience:
Host: Arizona State University
Home: Keio University
One SAF scholar reflects on her study abroad experience at the University of Utah, USA.
Why did you decide to join an SAF study abroad program?
Because I wanted to improve my English. I also wanted to gain new experiences in the world that I didn’t know. In my freshman year in college, I did a short study abroad at a language school in Australia for two weeks during spring break. However, it was very short, and I didn’t really have opportunities to interact with the local students, so I ended up going home not being able to improve my English so much. That’s when I thought “I want to try study abroad again, this time, in the environment where I can take courses with local students!” Until my sophomore year in college, I spent most of my time engaging in club activities, and I wasn’t studying so hard. When going from sophomore to junior, I looked back on my college life, and I felt unease because I realized the fact that I didn’t accomplish much. Therefore, I decided to do study abroad hoping that I will be able to learn a lot from my experiences of studying at a university and living in an environment which culture is different from Japanese.
Why did you choose to study in Utah at the University of Utah?
Yes. Utah is very popular for outdoor sports, and since it was not a big city, it is less likely to encounter danger. I was born and raised in Tokyo, so having a campus which backyard is mountains and living in nature was such a fresh experience for me. During week days, I went hiking after school, and on weekends, I went to national parks. I also took a class which I got to do camping in a desert and went snowboarding so many times. I had a great time while I was there.
Please discuss the courses at your sending university. How were the classes different from those at your home university?
Taking courses at University of Utah, I was surprised how serious the teachers were towards the students. In most classes at Japanese universities, we have lecture style courses where teachers talk and students just listen. However, in American classes, classes are more interactive, [with] students asking teachers questions and everyone discussing based on these questions. It was very exciting for me to be able to ask questions and get answers in class. Although, I had a lot of assignments to do.
What was the biggest challenge during your study abroad, and how did you overcome it?
When I just started my study abroad, it was hard for me to speak up in class. Even when I was talking to someone one on one, if it was in a group, and I was the only international student, it was hard for me to follow what my classmates were saying. Sometimes, I couldn’t follow simply because I had no knowledge [of] the TV shows that they were talking about. However, I didn’t give up. I talked with my friends who have done study abroad before and international students from other countries, and got an advice. They said, “Not saying anything is bad, so say a word at least; get their attention and tell your thoughts at your own speed.” I tried that. I also started asking questions when I didn’t know or understand. My classmates kindly answered my questions and helped me out, so I stopped hesitating. Since then, my classmates started seeing me as their friend, and my relationship with them has gotten better. I learned that speaking up with confidence is very important in American culture.
Did you attend any activities outside the classroom?
I didn’t belong to any organizations while I was there, but I hosted a big “Japanese and Korean food party,” inviting 80 people including my friends. Also, my Japanese and Korean friends made some Japanese and Korean food, and we tried to spread our culture. I also volunteered in Mexico and [worked as a] TA in Japanese classes at the University of Utah.
Tell us about your dorm life...
I had a Japanese roommate and two American suitemates. My American suitemates were very nice inviting me and my Japanese roommate to events, helping us out correcting our English papers, explaining about American politics on the election day. When I had my birthday and times I was feeling down, they wrote some messages on the bathroom mirror, and they made me very happy. Also, one of my suitemates took me to her parents’ house in Georgia for Christmas, and I could experience the real American Christmas. In terms of cleaning, we wrote our roles on the whiteboard and took turns. When it [came] to meals, every day we ate at the school cafeteria, and sometimes on weekends at restaurants near campus.
How do you think you will use your study abroad experience in your future career?
Through my study abroad experience, I think I became a person who is not afraid of challenge. I gained confidence going through a lot of difficulties and learned how important it is to be active making friends and studying and everything. Nothing happens, and there is nothing you can achieve if you don’t take any actions. I was good at listening to others but not so good at speaking up until I did my study abroad. However, I became able to speak up and tell my opinions and thoughts based on my own standards after learning and accepting a lot of cultures and different values. I think I will be able to use these skills [in the workplace] and pretty much anywhere in Japan in the future. While I was job hunting, companies gave me [positive] feedback on my experiences and challenges and [for] improving my English during study abroad. I felt that the fact that I had to stay for one more year at college to do study abroad was not a big issue for the Japanese companies.
How was the support from SAF?
The staff from SAF Japan office gave me a quick response whenever I was worried about something. Their support was good so that I could do study abroad feeling at ease.
Do you have any messages for future study abroad students?
If you are thinking about studying abroad or have a chance to do study abroad, I strongly recommend that you do. First, I was worried about leaving my friends in Japan and staying for another year in college, and I wasn’t so sure, but now I would be horrified if I hadn’t done study abroad (laugh). During the 10 months of my study abroad, so many things happened that changed my life and my values. I feel lucky being able to do study abroad while I was in college. If you’ve already decided to do study abroad, I want you to spend every day with 120 percent energy before you leave Japan. I also think it would be a good idea to set a goal and start working toward it. If you do this, I think you will also be able to feel your own growth. You might think that the time during study abroad is forever, but actually, it will be over in a second. Interact with foreigners in Japan, go to places and absorb a lot from experiences, and I think you will have a wonderful time during your study abroad. Cheers!
Name: Asami Umehara
Home University: Keio University
Host University: University of Utah
SAF scholar Chie Yoshida captures the annual International Festival at California State University San Marcos.
Finding the right-fit university for you is about identifying and sharing the informal characteristics of the community you will join. From their differing teaching methodologies to the prominence of their extra-curricular activities, the institutions that make up our top-tier International University Network offer wide-ranging approaches to successful study abroad experiences.
In a survey of 443 U.S. colleges and universities, College Factual identified schools that provide “quality educational outcomes and a supportive community to students from other countries," then ranked them based on student body caliber, educational resources, total number of international students on campus and more. We’re proud to see so many of our member universities topped the list.
But remember to look beyond the rankings. With our expert advice and international education knowledge, we can help ensure you get into the program that best suits your academic ambitions, qualifications and interests.
SAF Member Universities Among the Top 10 Best U.S. Universities for International Students From:
by Erika Woodward
I learned to confront and acknowledge my shortfalls.
Although “leadership” is widely discussed among students, I don’t think it’s a word for everyone. In my opinion, there’s no need for everyone forcing himself to acquire this quality and be a leader. A good world is not only made by outstanding leadership, but also by effective cooperation, where a leader is just one role of many and where everyone can get involved.
I used to be a member in AIESEC, where leadership is the permanent topic. “I tried hard to be active, to be responsible, and to do everything that made me a “good leader”, except I didn't know the reason why I was doing it. I was aiming at changing the world, probably because all my peers were claiming it as their cause. I can tell from my experience that being a leader was miserable for me, when I was wrongly put into the position. As a result, I think it’s important especially for easily-confused young people to spend some time discovering their needs in order to find their right place in this globalized world.
For instance, when I became the president of my school’s yoga club, I found my work exciting and inexhaustible, because I really enjoyed yoga and was eager to bring the club back to life. What I learned there is before asking “how can I be a leader?”, I should firstly ask “why do I want to be a leader?” For me, real leadership only comes when a person finds his overwhelmingly passion to make a change in certain circumstance.
I didn't encounter many difficulties during my preparation for study abroad, but for the past half month at the University of Glasgow, I’ve been challenged, caught in panic and trapped in upset. But every struggle means an opportunity to renew and grow, only if one overcomes. Fortunately, I have lived through it with the encouragement of others, and now I have some brand new views, which seemingly have nothing to do with leadership, but which actually greatly contribute to the shaping of a good leader, as they’re the foundation or essential qualities for being a better person.
First, while abroad I learned to confront and acknowledge my shortfalls. I have to admit that my English is not good as I think, especially compared to those native speakers. In the very beginning, I would pretend that I understood what they were saying even though I didn’t catch a word, and was afraid to clarify by asking questions, which brought me great pain. But now I understand that I need to accept who I am and where I stand. It’s natural for an English learner struggling with words in a new environment, and everyone is imperfect, even the greatest leader in the world. To accomplish a goal, it’s as crucial for a good leader to know what he lacks as what he has, before he can search for supplementary resources or the help of others effectively.
Second, while abroad I learned not to be picky when making friends. It’s very important for leaders as well as students who live abroad to develop extensive interpersonal relations, so as to obtain enough support.
Talking about my future career plan, I’ll try to find communication work in the Chinese non-profit sector and devote myself into philanthropy after graduation. I’ve been learning journalism and communication for more than five years, and I know it’s vital for Chinese volunteer organizations to find a right way to express their ideas, rebuild their reputation and gain back the trust of the public. In order to get an overview of the field, I took an internship in China Philanthropy Times before coming to the UK, and I found that most philanthropic activities were confined within the industry. Hence, I set three goals for my exchange in Glasgow.
The first one is participating and examining different voluntary practices and institutions in the UK, especially their way of organizing and promoting people, in order to have a firsthand taste in this experienced country (without violating British immigration law with my short term study visa). The second goal is taking some public policy courses to deepen my understanding of social problems and learn the viable way to deal with them. I’m now taking a course called Understanding Glasgow in a Globalized World, which gives insightful local experience to regenerate a de-industrialized city. Last but most practically, I want to improve my English and cultivate my international view in a comprehensive way, which may do good to cross-cultural communication or even my job hunting if applying for a transnational NGO in the future.
Host: University of Glasgow
Home: Xiamen University
School of Journalism and Communication
李瑾雯 厦门大学 新闻传播学院
"This experience has shaped me to become a more tolerant and empathetic person than I could have been without it."
One SAF Student Global Leadership grant recipient reveals how studying abroad has shaped her as a future leader.
In my opinion, leadership is not an innate ability just for a gifted person. Instead, it is open to everyone who puts effort to find their potentiality and strengths. Therefore, I think that a key to be a leader comes from a personal endeavour such as searching for one’s identity. Successful leaders, as far as I understand, are not the people who decide matters wholly on their own judgement. However, they should have an ability to empathise with others and be ready to accept others’ opinions, since we live in a community where an individual and others are seldom detachable. To sum up, I believe that good leaders need to mature not only their particular talents, but also communicative skills, in order to yield a result which benefits the whole society. In a study abroad year, this perception of leadership of mine has been strengthened, rather than radically altered.
From a young age, I have been lucky to be able to travel around the world, meeting various people and interacting with different cultures. This experience has shaped me to become a more tolerant and empathetic person than I could have been without it. Therefore, studying the society people live in naturally became my interest, which is one of the basic and thrilling ideas of Sociology. To develop my interest in Sociology in a research-based environment, I decided to study abroad in the United Kingdom. It was worthwhile, for example, to participate in ‘empirical research on patriarchy’ there. Based on interviews with groups of families including mine, I could examine the limited role of gender under traditional stereotypes. Since then, I have started to face inequality and discrimination in society, which made think that experiences and studies at school should be practically linked and ultimately contribute to real-world problems.
Besides academic studies, I have been a part of the school’s musical and drama societies as an actor and a production assistant in ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Morir O No’. From this experience, I learned not only how to harmonise and communicate with a variety of people, but also to express humanity in a form of art. To me, theatre performance is more than just an entertainment, but a microcosm of society which gives significant messages to the audience. Additionally, as a human being, I always seek to improve myself and adapt in new environments. Learning, especially being able to communicate in foreign languages, has been my top priority since I was little. I have been interested in learning Japanese, French, German as well as English. Since my time in the UK, my English skills have improved consistently, especially in writing and speaking, as I needed these skills for social interactions. I hope to continue my study in the UK, to perfect my English skills which would allow me to communicate effortlessly with people in the world.
After getting the bachelor’s degree in sociology, I plan to continue my study at graduate school. I am open to new opportunities in life, but right now I hope to find an internship in broadcasting during this time in the future. It is my passion and interest to eventually get involved in creative media industry, and produce public media programs like TV shows, films and podcasts. In my opinion, media production should be based on an understanding of both people and communities, to help build a better society. I strongly believe that my experience at ‘FIE Student Global Leadership Conference’ will help me to develop my own specialties as well as social interaction skills, which are essential to reach this goal.
Host: University of Edinburgh
Home: Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
Major: English Interpretation and Translation
A glimpse at the city of Edinburgh, where Sobin Lee is studying:
SAF scholar Haeri Kim captures the first days of her first semester at Michigan State University.
SAF scholar Geming Liu discusses what studying abroad has meant to her.
Blair School of Music is also a part of my experience at Vanderbilt. I take piano classes there. Actually, I studied piano for more than 10 years, but at Vanderbilt I realized for the first time that music is a language. I learned that as a musician you need to listen to the music instead of just playing it. If you make a mistake, it doesn’t matter, just try again.
At Vanderbilt, I feel the peaceful power of my inner self. I haven’t found a clear-cut answer in my journey for self-exploration, but I will never stop thinking about those questions. At least I found out what I need, what I want, and I expanded the angle from which I perceive life.
Host: Vanderbilt University
Home: Jinan University
SAF scholar Zheng Wang captures the whirlwind experience of being a visiting student at the University of California, Berkeley.
SAF Scholars and Alumni