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Study Abroad Interviews

Makiko Yamashita

Age: 23 years old

Degree: Organizational Communication

Prior Language Knowledge: Japanese is first language; English 12 years; Spanish 1 1/2 years

Study Abroad Country: Costa Rica-Heredia Language Institution

Lengh: Summer Semester 2008 (4 months)

Why?
For Makiko, she was working towards a degree in Spanish and wanted to "know what it is like" to study abroad. She also wanted to meet more people. She already made the leap when she came to America from her home country of Japan, and wanted to experience the Spanish side adventure.

Would you do it again?
She said that she would really enjoy living abroad again. She does not want to go necessarily as a tourist, because then you only get to see certain parts of the country that everyone sees when they visit. She would love to live among the people and get to know the "real" country. Makiko wants to now visit Argentina or Colombia for 4-6 months, and wants to return to Costa Rica for a visit to her host family. "They were kind people."

Makiko dining with friendsWhat was your favorite part?
Makiko is a social bug at heart and did indeed meet many new people during her study abroad. "My favorite part was meeting people -- everyone from students to people at the bars."

What was your least favorite part?
One thing that you have to be careful of in a foreign country is stereotypes of Americans. Makiko told me how she had to have her guard up against being taken advantage of. She said, "Walking down the street people saw me as a 'George Washington,' that is, walking money." One way she combated the stigma was by asking her host family how much she should be charged so she would know the expected price.

What was the easiest aspect of your study abroad experience?
"Food!" Makiko told me, "Many people told me that I would miss Japanese food, but no, I didn't!" She really enjoyed the food her host family cooked, and she even learned how to cook traditional Costa Rican food along with them!

What was the hardest aspect or challenge you faced studying abroad?
"The hardest part of studying abroad is the language barrier." Makiko knew the language, but was not the most efficient at it, like most people who study a language apart from their native tongue. Sometimes people had the impression that she was not the smartest person because her vocabulary was not at college level or the tempo of her conversations were not at full speed. This stigma does fade with time and practice of the language, though.

Makiko with friend in the Costa Rican countrysideHow has this study abroad affected your life now?
"I'm definitely more understanding of people now and the differences of people. I am also more patient -- so patient, especially when it comes to language. I have so much more patience because in Costa Rica getting anything done took more time."

What advice/words of wisdom would you offer students interested in studying abroad?
"Do it!! Make lots of student loans -- it is worth it!" Makiko wanted to make her college education well rounded, and did so by studying in Costa Rica and obtaining a double American deegree at MSUB. She told me, in light of the MasterCard commercial, that "There's some things money can't buy -- just swipe your credit card." She knows that her small student debt was worth every penny because of the experience she lived through. She reflected on her experience and told me how different it is than living here in the U.S. To break through barriers and realize how many Costa Ricans really view Americans, and that it was a more realistic point of view, was really positive. It really was a bridge-building experience. An adventure she tells everyone they should try for themselves!

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