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Molly Mays: Student Report from 2019 Alternative Fall Break to Japan

Group at the traditional tea ceremony.

Tickle College of Engineering students at the traditional tea ceremony.

I have always wanted to study abroad and this Alternative Break to Japan provided the best option for me. I was nervous about going at first, because it is so far from home. My nervousness quickly turned into excitement as the trip approached. This would be the farthest and most different place from home I had ever traveled; I should be excited!

The day of the trip arrived and I was ecstatic. The flight was long, but enjoyable, with our trip leader, Judith Mallory, sitting next to me on the way there and back. Once we arrived in Japan, we met with our in-country guides, Naoko and Kuni. They led us to our hotel and provided a quiet sushi dinner for us that night. I was very happy about all the food we would eat during our trip and excited to expand my knowledge and my palate of Japanese food. I used to work at a sushi restaurant, so I was curious what would be similar and different about American and Japanese sushi. They are fairly similar, except for different combinations of the fish and the quality of the fish was better in Japan, as well as more readily available. Over the course of the trip, we ate many unique foods to which we were not accustomed, and most all of it was amazing.

Platter with several different kinds of sushi.

My favorite part of the trip was helping set up and then attend the Bon festival for the local community where we were staying in Okazaki. We helped to set up the big stage decorations and tents surrounding the area. It was hard work and we were all sweating and slightly sunburned afterward, but it was fun to work with the people of the local community. It was especially fun to witness the festival the next night with some of our new Japanese friends. We all got to help different merchants and sell certain items. After we helped the merchants, we danced around the stage with many of the people from the festival and our new friends.

I am so glad I made the decision to go on this trip. I could not have asked for a better end to my summer. My appreciation for Japanese customs and people has grown tremendously. This was the best choice for me to study abroad. I was able to experience a different culture, language, and 13-hour difference time zone. It was an exhausting time, but the best kind of exhausting and I hope that I can go back one day.

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