Last month, we issued a call for your stories about international education and said we would share the best on the NAFSA blog. We’ve featured stories from Christine and Bonnie this week, and today marks our final story. You can read all of the stories on the Share Your Story page on www.ConnectingOurWorld.org.
I hope these stories will inspire you to share your own!
Jennifer Creamer is the Dean International Studies at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. This is Jennifer’s story:
When I was 17, I spent the summer living with a Japanese host family through Youth for Understanding (YFU). I remember being picked up by my host mother and brother on that hot, sticky night, riding a very crowded train from Tokyo to Samukawa, a small town in Kanagawa Prefecture, where I would spend the next two months. When we arrived home, I was told by my host brother, the one in the family who spoke the most English, that I would be sharing a room with Obāchan, his grandmother.
Obāchan was in her late sixties, her jet black hair was swept up in a bun, and when she smiled, I noticed that her front teeth were rimmed in gold. Obāchan didn’t speak any English, and I didn’t speak any Japanese, yet we had no problems communicating. We became fast friends – we watched Tokyo Giants games together, enjoying our favorite snack, Mitsuya Cider (kind of like Sprite) and spicy rice crackers. Obāchan would tell me jokes, hit me on the back and say “Ne, Jennifa-chan,” “isn’t that right, Jennifer.” She liked to sing enka, Japanese ballads, at a karaoke studio. She took me shopping and I could tell when she was talking to her friends about me. She took me to an Onsen (hot spring) resort. We enjoyed the baths, the meals, and evening walks around the grounds. Obāchan cried when I left that summer, and I was determined to go back to Japan and speak to her in Japanese.
I chose my college because I could major in East Asian Studies and spend my junior year studying in Japan. It was a great feeling to finally speak with Obāchan in Japanese. I returned to Japan after college to teach English, in graduate school to study Japanese again, and to do research for my doctorate in anthropology.
In 2008, I went to Japan to give a lecture at a partner university and traveled from Osaka to Tokyo to visit my host family. Obāchan was 96 years old then, and I hadn’t seen her for almost 10 years. My host brother said that she couldn’t remember things very well, but as soon as I saw her she said “ahh, Jennifer-chan,” she remembered me right away! It was a touching moment for me as we talked about our good old days together from that summer when I was 17.
I truly know how an experience abroad can change the course of your life, because that one summer in Japan with my special Japanese roommate, had changed mine. I now work with American and International students to facilitate their international educational experiences and couldn’t have picked a more rewarding profession.