Allison Lai

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Business Administration and Japanese majors
Program: Keio International Program
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Term: Spring 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose this program because I wanted an immersive experience in Japan to better develop my Japanese language skills, while still being able to earn credits transferring to my degree at UNC.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned what a big part culture plays into almost everything that I do, and that my surroundings greatly influence my actions and the people I chose to surround myself with.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
Giving up my seat on the metro to the elderly and hearing their stories in Japanese. Being able to understand their speech made me realize the importance of learning foreign languages; it's really such an amazing thing to be able to understand others in their own native languages.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Although you may be nervous, everyone else studying abroad is feeling the same way, so don't be too worried!


Would you do it again?


How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?
Being able to communicate with others is extremely important for any future career, and my study abroad experience really developed this skill for me. As part of an international program, I met people from 10s of different countries, and with such vast cultural differences amongst us, I wasn't sure how well we would really be able to get along and relate to one another. To my surprise, these cultural differences ended up being common factors for all of us, and being able to talk about our origins was something that really brought us all together. Despite our differences, the shared curiosity and genuine interest in one another made us closer. From meeting such a variety of people, I learned that even when the situation seems challenging, there will always be commonalities among people that will bring them together. Learning this through experience has given me the ability to communicate better with others.


How do you identify?
Student of color


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
Being Taiwanese American, I look physically Eastern Asian, and going to Japan, I had the tendency to blend in. Although this may seem like an advantage, it was difficult because I was given a much smaller margin for error as someone in a foreign country; because I looked similar to natives, I was expected (for the most part) to act standard to how native citizens did. It felt like I had many expectations of me to act "more Japanese" due to my appearance. Sure, one could say that I had a more immersive experience because of this, but it also brought some stress to me since I could have been doing something unconventionally "Japanese" without knowing it and be judged for it.


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
My advice would be to approach your unique situation in a positive rather than a negative, as I was eventually able to do. Every experience I encountered based off my appearance eventually became a basis for learning and growth, and because of this, I now feel much more comfortable in immersive environments.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
My friends abroad! Truly everyone experiences something similar, even if it does not appear so.


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