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Over the seven weeks that I spent in Japan, my classmates and I studied on the campus of Kanda University of International Studies. Five days a week, my classmates and I spent three hours learning Japanese Grammar, Kanji, and vocabulary. Finally, we would walk to the student center (the SALC), where we could fully immerse into college student life in Japan.

In the SALC, I had the opportunity to make many new friends. While my classmates and I were learning Japanese, students at KUIS were learning English. Our situation created the perfect language exchange experience. I jumped at the opportunity to be a language tutor. Through our conversations, I gained insights that have helped me improve my conversational Japanese and build my confidence through exchange.

Another reason I had a memorable time was my host family’s kindness and generosity. She was up earlier than everyone else in the house so that breakfast was ready in time for me to eat it, and then take the train to school. While cooking all the meals and taking care of household chores, my host mother also worked a part-time job. I am still amazed by the way she balances her family and work so effortlessly. I was worried that I would become homesick because I had never been abroad, but my friends and host family always made me feel welcome.

While in Japan, I visited Kyoto, Hokkaido, Tokyo, and lived in Chiba. I also had the opportunity to experience parts of Japanese culture, such as attending an onsen and taking part in a tea ceremony. However, there is still more for me to see and do in Japan. I would like to return to work as an English teacher, and possibly go to graduate school in Japan. To prepare for a future of living and working abroad, I have decided to apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Research Award in Japan.

For my final summer project, I decided to ask KUIS students about their interest in hip-hop culture. Before studying in Japan, I had learned about the Japanese hip-hop subculture in one of my courses at UNC-Chapel Hill. While walking on the campus of KUIS, I witnessed the Hip Hop dance team’s rehearsal. I did not hesitate to introduce myself to one of the team members, and I was invited to join in on the practice. Many of the dancers were effortlessly popping, locking, and moving to the rhythm of the music. As a fan of hip-hop music and an African-American woman, I understand Hip-Hop Culture’s appeal to its target audience. However, I would like to learn more about its appeal to youth in Japan. I had the opportunity to connect with a professor and researcher of popular music at Kyoto Seika University. If awarded the U.S. Fulbright Fellowship, I will return to Japan next year and research the methods and reasons by which Japanese youth have adopted aspects of hip-hop culture.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan. My experience in Japan was everything that I had imagined. Through this experience, I have gained confidence in my language ability and a sense of independence. My only regret was that I had not gone for a semester.