Get out of your comfort zone: travel the world!

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Studying abroad is a life-changing experience for just about anyone who does it. Janessa Wangadi, and Edmonds Community College student, is just one of numerous students whose lives have been bettered by their travels.

Winnie Chen
Janessa Wangadi at the Hikawa Shrine in Saitama, Japan.

Wangadi attended Saitama Women’s Junior College in Saitama, Japan last year. Wangadi explained that she has been interested in Japanese culture since her Freshman year of high school, when she first began learning the language, and that is what motivated her study abroad trip.

Since this was a shorter program the students had a packed schedule, but they were guaranteed to have a great time. One of the places that they visited was the Hikawa Shrine, a very popular shrine located in Saitama City.

Some of the challenges that Wangadi had to overcome was the language barrier. Her host parents were in the process of learning English, and she was not yet fluent in Japanese. She tried her best to communicate with what she knew. Her and her host family found themselves communicating through Google Translate, especially during dinners when they were getting to know one another.

Emily Schifferling, the study abroad associate director here at EdCC, was able to recount the time Wangadi had gone to Saitama Japan. She was told that Wangadi’s host family knew a lot of English, but is seems that they knew way less than what was expected after hearing about Wangadi’s experience.

Wangadi had ensured that while the language barrier  was a challenge, it was not something that seemed impossible. Her host parents were very willing to learn  English, and she had created a bond with them that goes beyond language.

“My host family was very generous, and they expressed great interest in learning English as well,” said Wangadi. “We learned a lot from each other beyond just learning the languages.

Wangadi’s host parents had a big impact on her experience. She had pointed out that her host parents were the most memorable thing about her trip, as they treated her as their own. Her host parents showed her what a traditional Japanese community was like, and she met many of their family members. She would go to the park to walk their Shiba Inu, gardened in their communal farm, and played in the river to catch tadpoles with their granddaughter. Based on her  three-week stay in Japan, she had grown accustomed to not only their lifestyle, but had grown onto the people she met as well.

“(Studying abroad) pushes you out of your comfort zone, and helps build character,” Schifferling said, emphasizing how the opportunity increases one’s resilience. Wangadi studying abroad and overcoming the language barrier was just one of the ways that shows her resilience.

Though Wangadi’s three-week stay may seem short, she had learned things that she now applies onto her daily life. Through getting to experience the Japanese culture, she had grown accustomed to some of their values.  She had noticed that after her trip  she was  more minimalist with her  possessions, and even relationships.

“I saw how many Japanese people choose to keep their belongings to a minimum, and they take care of it more because of it,” said Wangadi. “I always strive to apply that in my life.”

Japan, France, Spain and Germany are just some of the places that the study abroad program at EdCC has to offer.  Students can study abroad for a quarter and take courses that earn up to 15 credits, or participate in the short term programs that offer five credits and ranges from two to four weeks long.

Another program offered is the student exchange program, where a student and the college partner up with institutions abroad and allows the students to study tuition free. This is different compared to some of the quarter long programs in which a student may have to support themselves during their trip. Students can also apply for scholarships if they want to study abroad, though one of the requirements for these scholarships is the student must be a U.S citizen.

These programs have an impact on the students and staff members alike who experience them. Wangadi and Schifferling both had mentioned how you become immersed in these different cultures due to the new setting. Studying abroad is another great alternative for students who are interested in not just learning, but getting hands on experience on how the world around us works.

Wangadi advises those who are interested in studying abroad to “come with an open mind and remember that you may not be able to experience anything like this in the future.”