For Rebecca Volent ’12, the question of whether she should spend a semester abroad was an easy one: of course! Her destination was also an easy choice: “I always wanted to go to Japan,” she explained. “When I was 10, my family hosted a Japanese teacher who stayed with us for a month and got me interested in the country.”
Her life-long interest in Japan and interest in Asian Studies crystalized when Volent came to Fairfield and decided to pursue an Asian Studies minor in addition to her marketing major in the Dolan School of Business. In addition, the Portland, Maine resident has been president of the Asian Student Association, which seeks to spread the awareness of Asian culture on campus. So spending a semester in Japan from April to August was the perfect opportunity for Volent to experience the culture first hand.
“I wanted to be in a big city, so I applied to Sophia University, which is the biggest international school in Japan,” she explained. Because of the large international student component most of her courses were in English (she also took a Japanese language course five days a week).
Her language skills greatly improved once she was abroad. “When I first got there, a lot of what I said came out in a blur, but by the end I could always get my point across. And I understood what I was hearing a lot better.” In addition to her Japanese language courses, Volent improved her speaking skills by chatting with her school friends, who in turn asked her to listen to and help them with their English.
Other courses included Japanese art, women’s history, and global marketing. Volent noted that the Japanese art course was especially interesting and applicable to her time in the city. “We went to museums of course, but the interesting thing about Tokyo is that you can walk down the middle of the busiest district and there will be a temple in the middle of everything. After awhile I was able to recognize the artistic elements, the statues, and the monuments,” she said.
Living in the city, especially after coming from Fairfield’s suburban campus, was perhaps the biggest challenge for Volent. “I’ve never been good with directions, so it took me awhile to learn how to get around the city. Initially I would just follow my Japanese friends.” With time, Volent got used to navigating the city. “There was a lot of English on the streets, and I could eventually see that the city streets and subways were very organized and clean.”
Now back at Fairfield, Volent is finishing her Asian Studies minor. She hopes to secure a creative advertising position in Boston following graduation. Dean Robbin Crabtree noted that, “Rebecca’s experience demonstrates how the interdisciplinary minors in CAS and study abroad experiences can provide a unique character to a student’s academic program. This liberal arts preparation is is especially important to our students in the professional schools.”
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