Stewart Hoffmann, Tokyo
I knew Middlebury’s study abroad programs were renowned for their intensive language immersion experiences, but I had no idea quite how deep this immersion would be until I spent a year abroad at the Middlebury School in Japan. After having spent the previous summer in Middlebury’s 8-week Japanese Language School, I thought I was prepared for whatever language challenges Japan could throw at me in the coming year. Little did I know, I would be tested and pushed far beyond my expectations. During my year in Japan, in addition to the numerous connections I formed with the people in my community, I interviewed dozens of Japanese for a variety of anthropological and cultural studies, wrote thousands of characters worth of critical essays in Japanese, prepared and taught a class of 40 Japanese firstgraders, reconnected with my mother’s host family from her high school year abroad, and met many new and fascinating people along the way. Before this experience, doing any one of these tasks even in English would have been daunting to me, but thanks to Middlebury’s program, I was urged to push the boundaries of my comfort zone and discovered that my ability to communicate, regardless of language, had grown tremendously since I first landed in Narita airport.