Abroad in Japan by Ciel Zhang

With the vigorous program, Waseda Summer Session, I couldn’t be thankful enough for my fantastic experience in Japan, where I studied and explored the country at the same time. The program was initiated in 2014; although very young, it is indeed mature in administration and academic design. What’s more, there has always been a Scottie participant each year, and I strongly wish to keep this new tradition going. The rewards of the program exceed my expectation, which was already beyond ideal. To learn about it officially, please check out this link.

All the way across the Pacific Ocean, Tokyo’s Waseda University surprisingly has a lot in common with our good old Agnes Scott. Well, established in 1882, Waseda happens to be seven years older than Agnes, although the university admitted its first four female full-time students in the year of 1939. Despite this reluctance toward women’s higher education, Waseda University is already the pioneer among its fellow, prestigious institutions in Japan, which greatly has to do with its nature of being owned privately, and thus has the freedom to innovate beyond bureaucratic parameters. Likewise, at Agnes Scott, where we radicalize social norms and challenge young women to think deeply, the mission of innovation is perpetually carried along. Among the higher institutions I visited during my stay in Japan, Waseda University has the biggest share of female students than anywhere else. Most importantly, the faculty members and Student Interns assigned to this summer program were overwhelmingly female, and the courses also have a decent emphasis on feminism. This was beyond my expectation of a Japanese institution.

For that unforgettable month in Tokyo, the world seemed to be much smaller than it actually is. Not only because Waseda Summer Session had gathered young people from all over the globe, but also because of a lovely encounter with a Scottie alumna who teaches English in Tokyo; her name is Vallan Kantner. Vallan graduated from Agnes Scott in 2007, who studied abroad twice during her Scottie career, once in Russia and once again in Morocco. How did she end up in Tokyo then? The short answer is, her married a Japanese person. The long answer is, they met in Russia and got married over there, upon the husband’s decision to return to Japan, she found herself once again immersed in a new culture. Her various global experiences have given her a wide scope to observe the world, and her English teaching in Japan is also reshaping her students’ perspectives in a linguistic sense. Fun fact: Vallan still talks to her husband in Russian, and she is taking Japanese classes every Saturday.

I can still recall the lovely Friday night when I had yakitori (Japanese chicken BBQ) with Vallan, along with many other precious moments that unfortunately cannot be expanded on in this piece. I watched fireflies for the first time, went to multiple firework shows, walked through traditional Tanabata Matsuri (festival), gazed down at the night view of Tokyo from the Metropolitan Building, listened to a street political speech, jogged around the Yoyogi Park in a Sunday afternoon, and climbed up Nikko-Shirane Mountain and enjoyed Kinugawa Hot Spring there. Now looking back at these moments, I still cannot believe that they all happened in one month along with class works. If it was not for Waseda Summer Session, I would never have this chance to explore the magnificent city of Tokyo. Again, as a Scottie, I strongly recommend this program to you, please feel free to contact me at tzhang@agnesscott.edu for any questions!

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