In the spring of his sophomore year, Peter Herlin '15 studied at the East Asia Institute at Tokyo Christian University.
Where did you go and why did you choose that particular program and country?
For my study abroad trip I chose to go to Japan. I chose to go there because not only did I appreciate the history and the culture, but it was something that I wanted to learn more about while taking a risk. I have always been a very strictly western European history buff, but I wanted to learn more about something I did not know in detail. In other words, I hadn’t lived this history culturally like I had lived the others. That made the experience fun, interesting and exciting in a different way. I strongly believe westerners need to get outside of their culture for their study abroad experience. I also chose the program because I wanted to discover where my Wheaton friends from Japan grew their identities, and what shaped the way they were. In addition I went because of my love for Japanese cuisine. The particular program had many benefits as well. It was located in a great spot so that we could travel to the city by train as if it were Wheaton to Chicago. It was a very pretty campus with a great housing and cafeteria services. The program includes field trips, and all of the professors were incredibly kind and knowledgeable about what they taught. It doesn’t hurt to add that the program is an excellent value, and it was considerably cheaper than most study abroad programs given what you experience.
In retrospect, is there anything you wish you had known before studying abroad? Anything you would do differently?
Make it count! Remember, you are trading a semester of college for your experience so make it count. You are trading hours and hours of time with your already made friends, in order to make new friends and have completely new experiences. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and if you don’t break out of that zone then you will never have any growth at all. If I were to do it again differently, I would spend the summer studying Japanese in order to be more social with the other Japanese students. I would spend time talking to them in Japanese, and ask them to take me on even more adventures to the city. In addition, I think I would have budgeted to spend more while I was over there. I could have afforded a lot more omiyage, or souvenirs, but I worried about how I would get them back to the States in my little suitcase. I also would have spent more time out on weekends in the city, and also traveled to Kyoto or Osaka to see some castles and more parts of Japan. I would also take more pictures, in general, but more specifically take more pictures of my friends with me in them.
Do you have a tip for anyone considering a study abroad program?
Don’t allow a language barrier dictate where you will go to study abroad. Language learning challenges your mind in several new ways to expand your growth and development. It can be frustrating at times, and pantomiming happens. However, jumping over communication hurdles can be a satisfying experience and it can make you appreciate everyone speaking in English upon your return! Simply put, studying abroad will do wonders for your development as a steward of Christ. Leaving Wheaton gives you a new appreciation for it that enriches your experience the rest of the time you are here. If you came to Wheaton hoping to expand your mind, your character, and your love for God, consider studying abroad, where all of this can easily happen if you’ll let it.