Tag Archives: study abroad

Japan Study Abroad

English major Jordan Traut studied abroad in Japan for a semester. Read about her experiences below! 

The Shinto Shrine in the woods in Hirakata, Japan

Studying abroad in Japan has been a life-long dream of mine for as long as I can remember. Since I took a world literature course in middle school, I have been passionate about studying ancient literature from the Middle and Far East. Japanese prose and poetry from the Nara, Heian, and Edo periods were always of special interest to me, and there is really no better place to study a particular culture’s literature than from within the country itself. Millersville’s partnership with Kansai Gaidai University and their new Japanese Culture Studies minor were part of the reason I was attracted to the university in the first place.

After my first semester at Millersville, however, I wasn’t sure I would be able to spend a semester in Japan and still graduate on time because I fulfilled most of my general education credits in high school and at a community college. I only briefly mentioned how I was planning on letting go of my study abroad ambitions to another student when Dr. Jakubiak pulled me aside after class and told me that the English Department is always happy to accommodate students with their study abroad goals. On her advice, I sat down with Dr. Craven who assured me that we could work together to ensure my Japanese courses counted toward my English degree.

Jordan with a deer in the Todai-ji Temple

With the help of the Dmitzak Global Initiative Award from the Honors College and Dr. Craven in the English Department, I am happy to say I made it to Japan without spending more than my usual tuition costs and I am set to graduate one year early!

During my semester here, I am focusing my studies on Japanese literature. Specifically, I am interested in understanding Japan’s historical and cultural development through literary representations of their diverse eras. I am currently working with one of my professors researching a particular Japanese folktale that relates to my thesis work. Even though I am halfway around the world, I am finding bits and pieces of information that relates to my life and work at home.

The world’s largest bronze Budha in Todai-ji Temple

On weekends, I like to travel to different Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples with my friends and host family. Last weekend, my host parents took me to the Todai-ji Temple in Nara Park. This temple, originally built in 738 CE, is famous for the world’s largest bronze Buddha. It is, in my opinion, one of the most magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a historic monument of Japan’s most ancient cities. My host parents, who treat me like their own family, bought me souvenirs and took me to feed the deer in Nara Park.

I was also lucky enough to be one of three Kansai Gaidai students selected for an internship with the official news service for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which is currently being held in various cities around Japan. At the games I am assigned to cover in Hanazono and Kobe, I attend press conferences with the teams and interview players after their matches.

To any English students interested in studying abroad or even just trying something different and new, I would encourage you to go for it. Faculty and staff in the English Department are a great resource who, in my experience, value high-impact personal education experience. They will help you fight for the opportunity to grow as a student.

-Jordan Traut 

Studying and Teaching Abroad: Anthony Freeman

Anthony Freeman graduated in the fall of 2017 with a degree in English, concentrating on linguistics. 

Anthony in May Fourth Square in Qingdao, China

Making it through college can (and should) be difficult. But it’s just one part of a much bigger challenge: finding your path in life. Ideally, your college years will launch you onto that path as you explore your interests, select a major, and work closely with your academic adviser and instructors.

Is that what my years at Millersville did for me? Yes — although in unexpected and surprising ways! During my time at college, and in the past year and a half since I graduated, my path in life has looked less like a straight line and more like the bouncing white square from Pong. But it’s a path that has been incredibly fulfilling, distinctly my own, and which is leading me toward the realization of my academic and professional dreams.

My time at Millersville didn’t start the same way as it did for many other students. In the fall of 2014, I came in as a transfer student at the beginning of my sophomore year. Having lived most of my life five minutes from campus, the drive on my first day lasted just long enough to listen to one inspirational track on my favorite playlist.

I sat down nervously in a classroom in McComsey Hall with other English major transferees. There, Dr. Craven explained the various academic concentrations within Millersville’s English Department that we, as English majors, could study.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of a total shift in my life direction.

One and a half years later, I was receiving another orientation — this time, in a little college classroom in St. Petersburg, Russia. Why Russia? Well, after learning about the variety of concentrations within Millersville’s English program, I’d explored multiple options and finally settled on linguistics. And as I learned how language works, my dormant interest in the Russian language — which I’d briefly studied in high school —  reawakened.

Millersville was able to hook me up with Russian language classes through nearby Franklin & Marshall College. And after quite a few meetings at Millersville’s Office of International Programs and Services, I was ready to spend the spring semester of my junior year in St. Petersburg, Russia, studying language, literature, and Soviet history.

Some memories are like treasures that you perennially love to take out of storage, hold in your hands, and admire. Studying abroad increased my confidence and left me with a trove of memories that remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Those months in Russia not only improved my language skills, but also forced me to reexamine my identity. I learned to make decisions independently and think on my feet. I also made friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Skip ahead to the fall of 2017. I graduated (thanks in large part to my amazing professors) and was now a teacher in a private school, teaching English composition and Russian language to high schoolers. As it turned out, my time abroad was a significant factor in getting the job!

But there’s one more twist to my story: Not long before graduation, I found that my personal reading habits were shifting. One day in the stacks, I picked up a copy of The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry, translated by Burton Watson. I opened it up to a random page, read a few poems by Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei, and suddenly felt like the sky had opened up.

I haven’t had many epiphanies, but I felt like this was one. I knew a little bit about translation theory, and poetry had always been of interest to me. I had also studied Chinese the year before I got to Millersville. I was soon checking out books on Chinese literary and cultural history, several different translations of the same poems by Du Fu, and an old Chinese 101 textbook.

That was the beginning of another surprising curve in my life’s path. Today, I am a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in Qingdao, China. I’ve tested into upper intermediate Chinese, and I’m loving the job and my students.

The main reason I’m in China is to improve my understanding of Chinese language and culture. My plan is to study comparative literature at the graduate level. This will allow me to continue pursuing my interest in both Russian and Chinese literature, as well as that of the English-speaking world.

None of this would have been possible without faculty and friends telling me that I could dare to chase my dreams, wherever they took me. I’m lucky that I had so many voices in my life telling me that. So now I’ll be that voice for you: Dare to explore your options. Your enthusiasm for learning should know no bounds!

Anthony Freeman

Update from Dr. Tim Shea in Kenya

Am I crazy or just adventurous?  Maybe a little bit of both, I suppose. After more than a decade since living abroad, I decided it was time for a new international adventure. In March I requested a two-year leave of absence from teaching English at Millersville University and I moved my family in July to Nairobi, Kenya, and it has been a whirlwind ever since! I am teaching secondary English and social studies at Rosslyn Academy, an international school that was built on a former coffee plantation. From the moment I arrived, I have felt at home here.

poets3I am surrounded by an array of wildlife from various kinds of monkeys to colorful hornbills and hummingbirds, from massive indigenous trees to dazzling flowers of all shapes, and I haven’t yet gone to see “The Big 5” yet (lions, elephants, buffalo, leopard,and rhino)!  I look forward to exploring Kenya with my family, as we discover this amazing country together, starting with a visit to the baby elephant orphanage and visiting The Great Rift Valley teem to life at sunrise. I even get to go on a 3-day school field trip to a volcanic lake!

Then there’s my new professional life. In the past three weeks since I have been back in the secondary classroom, I am both exhausted and inspired. I forgot how much energy 12-year-olds have and how I must teach them differently from the young adults with whom I usually work.

Nevertheless, I have found the work to be rewarding and fun. So far we have learned about anthropology by creating our own cultures and burying the artifacts for future excavation. We have been crafting board and video games around global explorers’ travels, and we have examined the world of mythology through superheroes and dramatic interpretations. I am already more sympathetic to our teacher education students now that I have stepped back in their shoes.

Besides my work at the school, I look forward to working with medical school students on their academic writing in a program with John Hopkins University and a local university. I also will lead local groups of Montessori and Kenyan teachers in professional development using drama-based pedagogy. Shortly, I also hope to assist teachers in Nairobi slums.

Needless to say, there is so much to do here –both personally and professionally–that my time here will fly by! I look forward to learning and growing and bringing a taste of my adventures back to Millersville when I do.

–Dr. Tim Shea