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Neil Sharma

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Majors: Public Policy and Political Science. Minor: Japanese
Program: Summer in Tokyo
Location: Tokyo
Term: Summer 2023


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose to study abroad to help finish my Japanese minor, while living in Tokyo and immersing myself in the culture and the 'Nihon jin' way of life! Also as an aspiring global public policy analyst, this program was the perfect blend of language studies and independent policy research. In the end, thanks to the program, not only was I able to improve my language proficiency, but I also gained skills that helped me survey and interview Japanese salary men about their office life, and whether a recent 'Work Style Reform' law, made their life easier!


What did you learn about yourself?
When I arrived in Tokyo, I was a man on a mission, trying to master Japanese to analyze their laws and policies, in hopes of developing my future career. I was so focused on doing well in the fast paced classes and my independent research, that at times, especially early on, I chose my academic passions over sleep and experiencing the country around me, something I began to regret very quickly. Luckily, thanks to the opportunities presented by the Tokyo program, and the kindness of my peers, I was able to make the most of my remaining time by traveling to various cities like Hiroshima and Kyoto, enjoying moments visiting shrines and temples, or just letting lose in song during karaoke. Most importantly, I learnt the importance of rest and sleep, which made me an active participant in the entirety of my Study Abroad experience, instead of just honed in on one or two interests.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my oddest, yet most memorable memories was trying my hand at a crane game at an arcade with some other study abroad friends, and winning 6 prizes in two turns through sheer dumb luck. The arcade manager couldn't believe it, and trust me, I couldn't either.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
When traveling to unfamiliar territories, there will always be a degree of culture shock associated, and it is something I felt to. But I promise you, you will have resources at your disposal to help you understand your new surroundings. These can be your Study Abroad Advisor, your foreign professors, peers, or host family, to name a few. Believe me, you are never truly alone, and if you reach out, you will find those willing to give you guidance within your new surroundings as well.


How do you identify?
Student of color, First Generation College Student, Covenant Scholars, Scholarship Recipient, Transfer Student


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
As a transfer student and Gilman scholar, there were moments when I was able to appreciate how lucky I was as an older student, to be able to arrive in Japan, conduct research, and pursue my dreams. I hope to share these experiences when I do my Follow-on Service Project next month!


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
If you are a non-traditional transfer student like me, you might sometimes feel out of place in your peer group abroad (due to less time together previously etc.). That being said, if you take the time to reach out and connect with them, strong friendships can and will be made, especially since everyone studying with you abroad is doing their best to make the most of the new world around, just like you.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
Student Advisor, UNC professor in charge or other professors, peers and host family. All of these resources have been very accessible and easy to connect with in my experience.