by: Justice Miller
Josue Gomez, a recent VUU graduate with a degree in Business Administration, is pursuing a lifelong dream by studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan. Gomez also took a 5-day adventure excursion in Hawaii before his trip to Japan.
"It's always been a dream of mine to go to Japan and learn more about the culture. When I saw VUU was offering study abroad in Japan, that's when I got to work and started applying. I've always been a big fan of Tokyo's car scene, lights, and atmosphere and want to expand my content creation and photography business while here," said Gomez.
Gomez made this dream come true with the help of VUU's Office of Study Away, led by Director Lakendra Brunston Parker. This Office allows students to explore foreign cities, grow their knowledge, and expand their global connections.
Gomez is studying Intensive Japanese at KCP Japanese Language School, a fully accredited study-abroad Japanese language immersion program. This program is rigorous, including extracurricular learning activities such as debates, excursions, skits, and more. "They thrust you into Japanese living and language," said Gomez, who enjoys immersing himself in the vibrant culture despite the difficulty of his coursework.
"Ever since Covid, I've been doing all my class work online, so this is my first time learning in person since 2019. It's a little challenging readjusting, but it helps that I like the culture and that I've made friends in class that look out for me too," he added.
Virginia Union acknowledges that studying abroad is one of the twenty-first century's most crucial aspects of higher education as the world becomes increasingly globalized.
According to a 2022 Ivy Panda study on the long-term effects of studying abroad, students studying abroad life perspectives change by the intellectual, professional, and personal benefits they receive from their programs. The survey found that 96% of students believed studying abroad improved their self-confidence, 95% believed it positively impacted their worldview, and 95% said it had helped them mature. These are just a few of the numerous long-term advantages studying abroad can have on your entire life. (IvyPanda Study Abroad Statistics)
One advantage of studying abroad is learning about yourself while immersing oneself in a new culture. Being alone in a strange environment can sometimes be intimidating and test your capacity to adjust to various circumstances. In Gomez's situation, photography allowed him to explore his originality and personal development.
Gomez is an avid photographer using his time in Japan to expand his photography business. He enjoys photographing the Daikoku Parking Area, hailed as "Heaven on Earth" for enthusiasts of Japanese automotive culture. Shinjuku Tokyo is another location he pictures, a neon-lit area filled with high-rise buildings and many expensive hotel bars and restaurants.
"I've always been a fan of Japanese sports cars, so naturally, I had to attend the car shows while studying in Japan. The experience, atmosphere, and being among other car enthusiasts was all so cool."
Gomez is currently residing in the KCP dormitory in Ikebukuro. Ikebukuro, one of the largest commuter hubs, is 30 minutes from the dorm and sees more than a million visitors daily. Numerous nearby eateries, coffee shops, supermarkets, and even a 7/11 are all within a 5-minute walk of the dorms. Aside from benefits like having no roommate and his tiny kitchen, Gomez compared living in the dorms in Japan to living in the dorm at VUU. However, he finds preparing meals at home challenging and prefers to eat out frequently.
"The food is different. Still good, but I miss home-cooked meals. They only have a little American food. The McDonald's here has unique flavor options like red beans, and 7/11 doesn't sell any US snacks; it's all foreign food."
Gomez is excited to see what else Japan has to offer. He is open to exploring the city and photographing the sites.Gomez appreciates that VUU's Office of Study Away allowed him to fulfill his ambition of studying abroad. He is taking advantage of everything Tokyo offers and is eager to return to Virginia Union with the experiences he will have gained while studying abroad.