Cathleen Miramontes studied abroad in Osaka, Japan for a year. We talked to Cathleen about her biggest fear about studying abroad in Japan for a year, how she overcame them, how she budgeted for her study abroad, and more!
Why did you choose to study abroad in Japan?
I choose to study in Japan because as a child, I was fascinated by the culture and customs. The country is a mix of old and new; there’s a brand new mall next to Osaka castle! Isn’t that just amazing! Also, learning the language has been of interest to me for a long time.
What surprised you about Osaka?
I think what surprised me the most is how multicultural it is. I’ve met all sorts of people from all over the world in Osaka, some of those people are my best friends now. Also, everywhere you go in Osaka there’s a giant red octopus, I think that’s the cutest thing ever.
Why did you choose to study abroad for a year?
A semester abroad wouldn’t feel like I was an actual student, but a tourist. I didn’t think a semester was enough time for me to explore or study. I can imagine that a semester abroad would be pretty rushed too. You would have to worry about school, making time for traveling, going back home, etc… My friends who were studying for a semester were always in a rush and stressed out, while I was relaxed and worry-free. There’s a lot of things you have to think about the moment you arrive into a new country.
How did you budget for a yearlong program?
Things can get pretty expensive, so budgeting is a must. When I lived in the dorm, I had to worry about food costs and travel. I budgeted by setting aside half of my allowance for food and the other half for travel and more. When I was back home I took food for granted because I was not the one buying it. But because this time I had to buy it I made sure to buy food that was cheap and easy for me to cook (sausages, eggs, rice, etc.). Always buy things you will use for sure. Sometimes we tend to buy food or items and we end up wasting them. On a side note, you can buy commuter passes to school that lasts up to five months. This helped me so much since I didn’t have to worry about always reloading my travel card or buying a ticket to get to school. In the long run, commuter passes save you money!
Why do you believe studying abroad for a year is more beneficial than a single semester?
If you intend to study a language abroad, then I highly recommend a year abroad. This means you can immerse yourself in the language for a longer period of time. In regards to traveling and sightseeing, a year is plenty of time to do so. If you want to get a job abroad while studying, you are more likely to get one if you are studying abroad for a year. Personally, I believe a year abroad grows you up as a person more than a semester. I feel that a year abroad can really teach someone valuable life skills.
What were some of your fears about studying abroad for a year? How did you overcome them while abroad?
The language barrier scared me, however, I really put effort into learning Japanese in order to make life in Japan easier. Though there are times I can not communicate, I remain calm and try my best. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who is more proficient in the language! They are willing to help!
In what ways were you pushed out of your comfort zone and how did that help you grow as a person?
Because I chose to live in a dorm during the first semester, I had to share a flat with four other students. This was something I had never done before in my life, sharing a place with strangers that is. Doing so, however, taught me how to be more outgoing as a person. I began to talk to my new roommates and gradually became more comfortable with talking to people I never met before and now I am not shy when it comes to talking in big crowds. I have to say, I was very timid before studying abroad.
What did you learn about yourself during your time abroad?
The first thing I learned about myself is that I am truly a flexible person. I was able to adapt quickly to Japanese society. I think of myself as a brave person, for coming to a foreign country for a year without even realizing that I was going to be miles and miles away from home. The most important thing I learned about myself, however, is that I actually do have a talent and I am a smart student. Do not ever doubt yourself! We all have something we are better at than others!!