Study Abroad

Stacey Hurwitz

Blog Post #3

Moving Forward

Prior to traveling to Japan, I was curious as to what the attitude towards Americans would be, considering our rather complex and controversial political past.

To my surprise, it was rarely brought up, and all who I had spoken with about this really focused on how we would all move forward, and the importance of multilateralism and working together cohesively whether it be economically or politically. I enjoyed listening to the lecture at Meiji University, which emphasized the “Groups of Importance” in Japan, and how it is directly correlated to Japanese society and integration with the United States.

What I was most interested in was learning about Article 9 in Japans constitution, which explains their decision to not have an active military force after the devastation that occurred from the US, but one that exists for ceremonial purposes. Japan relies on the United States to protect them militarily, yet even though they don’t have a formally recognized military, their Self Defense Force, comprised of over 235,000 people, serve to protect the public internally. The Self Defense Force is militarized- yet not formally recognized to be, as 80% of the Japanese public do not want to arm their Self Defense Force and to rather keep it reactive as opposed to proactive, considering it a “disaster management force. While I agree with having a Self Defense Force, as political relations in Asia right now are becoming more and more prominent, I am curious to see whether Japan will continue to hold on to Article 9, or if the US and Japan will sever their relations militarily.

Additionally, I am always interested in learning about another country’s economics and work force structure. With Japan having a sharp decrease in their population and rise of senior citizens, “kaishaism” and how economically motivated citizens in Japan have become, has become apparent throughout Japanese society. The “7-11 Syndrome”, meaning, where those who are fortunate to work in a large organization, are expected to dedicate much of their time at work, specifically, from 7am to 11pm, which is a bit more severe than the expectations of work that exist in America. I continue to question whether this structure will last in Japan, or whether the corporate model will slowly change over time such as in the United States, with a “work-life balance” becoming more expected of large corporations. Japan is very “future focused” and people have a very optimistic and excited approach to their economic and political future.

Overall, I really enjoyed my added knowledge about Japan, and felt that by getting exposed to material that lecturers teach their university students, I was able to understand and analyze Japanese society more, and how their lifestyle compares and contrasts to that of the US. Never was I scrutinized and negatively questioned whenever political and economic conversations came up, and I like how Japan has a very futuristic approach to solving imminent issues.

Blog Post #2

There is no such thing as a language “barrier”

Every so often, you do something that takes you entirely out of your comfort zone, and challenges the norm that you are used to living. For me, beyond just experiencing Japan as a whole, was staying with my host family on a tiny, less than 200 citizens, island named Maejima.

I had never experienced a homestay before, and the thought of going to live with a family who I had no previous knowledge of, nonetheless a family unable to speak even a lick of English, was something that excited me- yet also made me uneasy. My host mom, who found me out of the whole group of participants, was so friendly and warm and ran up to greet me and the three others joining me immediately.  I immediately felt more comfortable, until I tried to communicate with her and introduce myself, which was when I realized she did not understand anything that I was saying.

Unsure of how this whole homestay would work, considering I to rely on my mediocre at best charade skills, forced me to really learn to adapt and be flexible. As I constantly was reflecting on this adventure I was experiencing, I was realizing that communication and understanding is so much more than just having a common language. Through body language, I was able to become comfortable, and very close, to this family that I could not even ask simple questions such as where they came from, why they settled on this island, and their familial traditions.

Yet, they enveloped me in warmth and compassion, and urged me to become one with their culture. Whether that be their excitement of dressing us up in traditional kimonos, encouraging us participate in tea ceremonies, or their smiles as they paraded us around town to meet their neighbors (who also knew no English) and to see their cabbage farms, they really went above and beyond in allowing us to experience their culture for ourselves.

I learned about their difference in bathing traditions, common foods that they eat at each meal (such as miso soup, fish of some sort, pickled vegetables, and white rice), home décor, and the simplicity of how they lived. It really does make you appreciate the little things. Especially how in this age of technology and social media, there are many places and people in this world who do not rely on technology, but rather, building connections with the people right in front of them, instead of through a touch screen. The other American students who were experiencing a homestay only one house away from us, boasted about how their home featured Wifi, and how ours didn’t.

That was when I recognized, that I didn’t need or miss being connected 24/7, and felt a sense of peace knowing that I was truly taking in all that was around me and living in the moment. I was able to communicate and learn so much about my Gigi and Baba’s family, traditions, and life, without speaking a common language. After they surprised us by showing up to our ferry departure, exchanged our last hugs, and waved until we could no longer see each other, was when I comprehended that there truly is no language barrier, but rather what connects us is compassion, hospitality, and open-mindedness to those whom we meet.

Stacey 1

Blog Post #1

Hello! My name is Stacey Hurwitz, and I am a junior studying International Business here at the University of Washington. I was born and raised on the East Coast (Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania), and love to visit family, friends, volunteer, travel, and watch/play sports.

Over the past few years of being a UW student, I have immersed myself in being involved in multiple extracurricular activities, such as Delta Sigma Pi Professional Fraternity, the Associated Students of the University of Washington, the Jackson School Student Association, and being the student lead for Unite UW, a program that helps connect domestic and international students together. I have loved my time here at UW so far, and am thankful for all of the opportunities it has given me.

I am so excited to get to visit Japan, as Japan has always struck me as such a beautiful place with such a rich history that I cannot wait to explore beyond the textbooks. Whether it be through my studies within the Jackson School of International Studies, or simply my passion for travel, I was so excited to be given the opportunity to participate in this program and am looking forward to meeting students and government officials in Japan, along with being exposed to its culture and beautiful architecture. While taking our Encountering Japan course, I have learned so much- whether it be understanding Japan’s unique geography (4000 different islands?!?), a few phrases to help me communicate with locals, and its vast history.

My experiences abroad include traveling to Israel and to China (both with school programs), and I cannot wait to go back to Asia and discover a whole new place! I have no idea what to expect being there- but in my opinion, that’s the best part of going someplace new!

Stacey