Student Reflections

24 09 2010

Photos taken at the Norman Topping Scholars retreat, where the students who had been on the trip Japan in June were asked to reflect on their experiences.

by Henry Franco

After Japan I realized that I have not fully utilized the resources available to me at the University of Southern California (USC). The Summer Immersion Program (SIP) in Japan made me understand the critical importance of studying abroad and broadening my horizons. More importantly, my travels have inspired my older brother to take the initiative to travel to foreign destinations. I was proud and ecstatic that I was able to indirectly change my older brother’s life trajectory and inspired my family to take risks. Now having the experience of going to Asia I am planning to apply to the Global Fellowship program to continue my education in Asia. Moreover, I will continue to pursue my goal to work for the State Department by applying to their internships in Washington D.C. for the upcoming summer of 2011.

by Paola Beas

Japan was part of a personal and academic journey. Two months after the immersion program, the respect and diligence of Japan’s people is what stands out from the experience. Personally, I witnessed Japanese people’s healthy lifestyle. From the food people consume to their regular meditation and even to their lack of greed and competition, the Japanese live healthier. Even after the experience Hiroshima had, the peace of Japan was visible in everyone, especially children and the elderly. Academically it made me reflect on the human race and specifically on how women all over the world have a common effort. It has influenced my new approach within the field of Social Work upon the completion of my Masters. More than ever I am convinced that I have a passion for global consciousness and the healing of women. Japan was not simply a summer immersion program but rather my bridge to a higher sense of awareness.

by Sergio Calix

Going to the Summer Immersion Program in Japan was one of the best decisions I have made. I spent my summer learning and exploring a complete different culture. Realistically, I would have never thought or been able to travel to Japan and meet all the people I did. From this trip I learned the importance of studying abroad and its rewards. Before, I was hesitant to study abroad, but after this trip I realized the learning opportunities that studying abroad have to offer. Also, I now recommend study abroad to all of my as a way to fully take advantage of their college career. Being in Japan also showed me the importance of being a global scholar and being aware of globalization. This made me want to change my major from just Business to International Relations Global Business. This major combines the two areas of study that I am very interested in. After returning from Japan, I have shared my experience with all of my peers. This summer made me more confident about the rest of my college career because it truly portrayed what education is about.

by Jessie Ruiz

Candidly, planning my trip to Japan was not as exciting as it was planning a trip to other countries as I had done in the past. It was not the fact that many of the things that we would see were not interesting, it was the fact that I did not know much about the Japanese culture and I would not know how to appreciate everything we would see. Never in my life did going to Japan or any other Asian country cross my mind. However, after going on this journey, I was exposed to countless interesting things from the different Buddhist religions, to Japanese social perceptions of immigrants, to the Japanese business way. Upon my return, to America, the stories I have shared with my friends and relatives have increased the awareness of the interesting culture that lies across the Pacific. Some of my friends, in fact, are applying to intern abroad in Tokyo and others simply want to visit the country and experience what I did. My knowledge and interest in this country has also increased which has helped me build more relationships with people. I feel as though as soon as I mention that I went to Japan to a new person I am meeting, they ask me tons of questions which makes our conversation very interesting. I hope to continue having an impact on others with my stories so that one day they travel to Japan as well.

by Roland Wiryawan

My journey to Japan has opened my eyes about the world. Traveling and immersing myself in a different culture made me also respect my own identity. The world now seems smaller and bigger at the same time. This trip has made me want to be a lifetime student, always learning. Now, I have a new goal: traveling more! Also in the future, I want to make movies that capture the unique qualities of other countries and the diversity in our world. Arigato!!

by William Baskerville III

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than two months since we left for Japan. It seems like just yesterday when I was anxiously waiting to hop on the plane and travel halfway across the world for this program. What I enjoyed most about this program was that it challenged me to think in a completely different way. I, as well as many of my fellow students, had preconceived notions on what it meant to be Japanese as well as the way in which the Japanese think. Simply by interacting with those living in Japan, I’ve learned that just like anyone else, you can’t place an entire group of people into a neat little box. I always thought of myself as open-minded, but this trip has opened my eyes even more. It has inspired me to reach out to different kinds of people and has definitely solidified my decision to study abroad for a longer period of time later in my academic career. If given the opportunity, I would definitely love to return to Japan someday.

by Isabel Duenas

The experience of participating in the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund Japan Summer Immersion Program has changed my life in ways that I did not expect. Upon being selected for the trip I immediately began to think about what a wonderful trip it would be and about how much I would learn about Japanese cultures, customs, and traditions. What I did not expect was how much I would learn from the people who were a part of the programs and how much I would learn from the experiences abroad. One of the most notable transformations has been the change in my perspective on what I can achieve. In Japan we met so many people, including Trojan alumni, who are working abroad. It was amazing to see that my own academic and professional career can go beyond the United States. The most important change I have seen is the change that has trickled down to the members of my family. I am the first person in my entire extended family of 17 aunts and uncles, and over 70 grandchildren who has ever gone to another country other than Mexico. My grandparents have excitedly listened to my anecdotes along with my nephew, their great grandchild. He tells me that when he goes to USC he will also go to Japan. I think that instilling in the younger and older generations in my family that higher education is obtainable and that there are no limits or borders, literally, has been the best part of being a part of the NTSAF Japan Summer Immersion Program.

by Anthony Grimaldo

Looking back at the Japan trip I can see a number of things that have changed within myself as a person and as a student. As a student, it opened my eyes to a number of opportunities that are available. One of the dramatic changes was changing my major from Psychology to International Relations and hopefully into International Relations Global Business with a minor in Spanish. I changed my major because of my new outlook on the world thanks to the Japan trip. Traveling to Japan and meeting with international companies showed me how business operates on a global scale while also working closely with different countries to sell their products or service. This excursion also reignited my desire to study abroad and get out of my comfort zone. This is was my first time traveling to a country completely different from the cultures that I have been immersed in all my life. Being immersed in the Japanese culture illustrated how different and similar people are from different nations while also providing me with their perspective of the world.

As a person, it’s encouraged me to tell my family and fellow students to go abroad to study, or for employment opportunities. Being abroad provides you with an experience that cannot be duplicated in the States because you are still in your comfort zone. Being in a new place with new faces may seem daunting but you can meet new people and create relationships. Being abroad simply opens your eyes to new experiences and cultures different from your own.

by Amanda Peralta

The Norman Topping Summer Immersion Program in Japan has impacted my life in numerous ways. I developed a greater passion for traveling after immersing myself in a country with such a unique culture, history, and society. After experiencing what it is like to step outside of my comfort zone, in addition to drawing connections between American and Japanese society, one of my primary goals in life to seek travel opportunities that promote personal and intellectual growth. Traveling to Japan has also made me reconsider some of my career goals. I am currently looking into working abroad within the next few years or for a job that involves international travel. Furthermore, the trip to Japan prompted me to make a few lifestyle changes – I walk more, eat healthier, and drink a lot more water. I realize that while on the trip, these three things made me feel noticeably healthier, so as soon as we returned to the States, I made it a point to enforce these habits. The NTSAF SIP Japan trip influenced my life in a way that no other event has; it took me outside of my comfort zone, it persuaded me to reconsider some of my long-term goals, and it impacted my everyday life choices.

by Carlos Hernandez

Two months after coming back from Japan, I feel that I’ve really come to appreciate the diversity here in the States, particularly L.A. Being in an environment that is completely homogeneous like Japan is something that I really wasn’t used to or that I necessarily enjoyed. While it may have its positive aspects, I feel that diversity is something we take advantage of as Americans because places like Japan don’t have the different narratives and varying perspectives as we have here. Nevertheless, putting their homogeneity aside, I feel that the heritage and culture that the Japanese have developed over centuries is something that we have still not developed. I am excited to be a part of our history as it continues o take shape with so many varying opinions and ideologies.

by Tina Chuvanjyan

Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined world travel like this. Two weeks in Japan filled with trains, rain, shrines, and history—so much history. I cannot believe it has already been two months since our trip. It feels as though it was just yesterday when we all returned to Los Angeles.

Since returning, I’ve caught myself thinking and dreaming about some of the things we did and places we visited while in Japan. The memories are so vivid in my mind; I hope they never go away.

To be perfectly honest, I had never envisioned myself visiting any Asian country. That part of the world seemed so far off and disconnected from anything in my life. However, as a rising senior, I knew that I could not let my college years pass by without some sort of study abroad experience. I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the USC NTSAF Summer Immersion Program in Japan, and I don’t think I could have made a better decision in my life.

Japan opened up a whole new world of discovery for not only me, butfor my friends and family as well. It was important for me to share with them everything that I experienced and learned on my trip. They were able to visit the country through my stories, photos, and souvenirs. Now they want to be able to experience traveling first-hand.

It is also interesting to note that I am much more aware of anything Japanese in my everyday life. While before I might have ignored clips of the Tokyo skyline or of the famous Japanese bullet trains in movies, now I am excited to share with everyone around me that I was there and have seen it all on my own.

I’ve become a walking and talking advertisement for study abroad and traveling. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity for study abroad to take the next step and actually do it!

by Donald La

I have never traveled overseas before Norman Topping gave me this wonderful opportunity to study in Japan for two weeks. The two weeks that I spent in Japan were memorable and significant to my educational experience here at USC. As an undergraduate student studying business administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship and international business, being able to see how Toyota manufactures their automobiles was a valuable experience because it allowed me to see how an actual production line operates in real life. It was also impressive to see Japan’s advanced technology. They had machines delivering automobile parts from one end of the factory to another, which is why they only have a few people working in the factories. The Summer Immersion Program gave me the chance to take the things I learned from various business classes and see how it is actually applied in the work force.

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