Marie Sato was greatly affected by her time studying abroad in the United States. She loved it so much, she decided she wanted to help other students feel the same way about her country! Marie is a Resident Director through IE3 Global at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.
What brought you to be a Resident Director?
My study abroad experience in the U.S. was one of the most influential factors in my decision to work for the IE3 Global program in Japan. I can’t express how much I was supported by my friends, roommates and friends’ families while I was in an unfamiliar place and studying in a foreign language. This stems from my strong sense of obligation (giri), in which individuals repay each other by returning gifts (okaeshi) given to them.
What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Tokyo’s railway system is one of the very unique aspects of Tokyo with 13 subway lines and more than 100 surface routes. Also, students can do many activities in the limited time. Visiting museums, Japanese Gardens, Akihabara (a district in Tokyo), shrines, cat cafés and many other places is possible every weekend. Many students visit Kyoto, Osaka, Hokkaido, Okinawa and many other places in Japan during vacations. It is difficult to decide where to begin exploring given the many options!
What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
I am a chocolate lover. Students who visit me eventually discover that I always have chocolate in the drawer in my office.
What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
One of my favorite aspects of being an RD is having the chance to learn from both students and host families. It is not easy being away from family and friends and attempting to live in a country where English is not the first language, but I have been able to see how both students and host families try to learn from each other through personal acts of kindness beyond the language barriers. Another great aspect is seeing students again when they return to Japan. Some of them come back as JET English teachers and some of them come back to spend time with their friends or host families again. I have already seen 5 former students in 2014-2015 and enjoyed talking about their memories of being in Japan and their future goals.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
Being on duty for 24 hours is one of the challenges. I actually receive emergency phone calls from students and host families in the middle of the night almost every year. Saying goodbye to students is also another challenge of my job. Their time in Japan feels short to me as I enjoy spending time with them and seeing how they improve in Japanese and learn the Japanese culture.
What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
Commuting on the crowded train in the morning rush hours is the first and biggest challenge for incoming students. However, the new experience makes students understand that they are in a different country. Without a manual or guidebook, they learn how to stand and use their cell phone in the very limited space on the train; they learn to adapt.
What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Students can start preparing for study abroad in Oregon. Some students say in the first meeting or write in their essay that they would like to experience “cultural exchange” but students have the chance to help the exchange students and other students from other countries on their own home campus. Students can also start researching places they would like to visit in Japan and make their own list of “Things To Do in Japan”. If students are not taking a Japanese class at their home university, I would highly recommend that they find Japanese students on that campus and start a “language exchange” so that they won’t be nervous communicating with their Japanese host families and Japanese friends when they arrive in Japan. These preparations will make the beginning of the new life in Japan start smoothly.
What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
I think I would say to pack one thing which makes the student feel happy. It could be an English book, organic food, or cheese flavored Doritos. Some students have been missing many foods which they can’t easily get in Japan. For example, Reese’s chocolate is one thing students have a hard time to finding here.
What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Through a study abroad experience, students can find different values from ones which are closely tied to the way students have been raised in their countries. It is important to step outside to see and feel different values through diverse experiences in a different country. Students will be able to use their experience to achieve future goals, even those beyond language, race, culture and religion.
To learn more about attending Marie’s program follow this link!