By Shannon Elward, Indiana Commission for Higher Education

Me at the top of Mt. Tsukuba

In today’s blog, we introduce you to Cassandra Goodman, our current AmeriCorps VISTA member at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. While in college, Cassandra participated in study abroad. Learn about what it was like below!

Tell us about you.

I am Cassandra Goodman, an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. In May 2020, I graduated from Purdue University with a B.A. in Global Studies, a minor in Political Science, and a certificate in Public Policy. In the future, I plan to attend graduate school for a Master’s in Public Administration.

Where did you study abroad and for how long?

I studied abroad at the University of Tsukuba in Japan for one year.

University Of Tsukuba
The central part of University
of Tsukuba’s campus

How did you decide where to study abroad?

I wanted to choose a country that had a culture completely different to my own. I grew up in a town of about 2,500 people in northeast Indiana. Prior to my study abroad, the only other country I had visited was Canada. I wanted to go to a country that would challenge me and force me to learn a new language. I felt that Japan would be the best place to do that.

What was it like taking classes in another country?

Classes were taught in English at my university. The main difference was the way semesters were planned. I took classes from October to January and April to July. Classes were 15 weeks long and you typically only attended a class once a week. Professors expected you to study independently and know the content before class. Overall, the way that individual classes were structured were like those at American universities.

Gyūdon, one of my
favorite Japanese dishes

What was it like living in another country?

Living in another country is an entirely different experience. It is a joke between my friends and I that our time together in Japan was just a dream. Almost every day was a new experience, even if it was something small like trying a new food or riding my bike to a new area. Despite the many culture differences, I found it very easy to adjust as people were very understanding of the situation.

What did you do for fun while studying abroad?

One of my favorite things to do was go to the Omochi Language Club on Friday nights. We would spend two hours speaking in English and Japanese. Afterwards, the club would get dinner and hang out. The club would occasionally host special events such as sake tastings or holiday parties.

Sake from an Omochi Language Club tasting event

What were some of your favorite experiences?

My favorite experiences were traveling to other prefectures. One of my favorite trips involved camping in Nikkō the final week I lived in Japan. My friends and I rented a car and drove to a top of a mountain to stay at a small campsite. At night, we relaxed on a pier in the middle of a lake and watched a meteor shower.

What advice do you have for students who want to study abroad?

Our campsite in Nikkō

I highly recommend you speak to the study abroad department about financial aid before your study abroad. By talking to them, I realized it was cheaper for me to live in Japan than it was to stay in America. My rent and utilities was less than $300 a month which allowed me to save a lot of money. Many study abroad offices also have their own scholarships. In my case, I received three scholarships for that school year because I was going to study abroad.

Interested in Studying Abroad?

Plan ahead and talk to the study abroad office at your college once you’re ready to begin the process. They can help–and there may even be scholarships or financial aid options to help you pay for it!

If you’re a college 21st Century Scholar, studying abroad will count toward your “College Engagement” activities. Learn more here.

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