Michiko Yoshino

Middlebury College

ICU stands for International Christian University, but there’s a running joke that it actually stands for Isolated Crazy Utopia. And from my time abroad, I can see what they mean – it’s almost like Middlebury in the suburbs. You’re dorming with people and you tend to see the same faces every day if you just let life sweep you along. But outside of ICU, outside of the dorms, there’s an entire world of experiences. It’s the shopping, it’s the food culture, it’s the talking and story exchanges with other international and Japanese students.

Not to say that there aren’t good experiences inside the campus. In my case, I regularly cooked and baked together with friends and shared them with the various dorm members – just because. As for the other students in the Middlebury program, we saw each other as our second families. We met up regularly to explore Tokyo or to be each other’s support when we wanted to talk with familiar faces. My year abroad was a roller coaster ride in a new place having different experiences with old faces.

Overall, I learned to be comfortable in my own skin and embrace the different environments of Middlebury and ICU during my time abroad. Sometimes it was exhausting trying to navigate Japanese social norms and customs, and it was during those times where I could rely on my fellow peers and professors in the program. Other times, I could effortlessly have a fun and meaningful conversation with dormmates and club members. My abroad experience motivated me to stay in Japan a little longer, participating in a Middlebury/ICU pilot service learning program and then doing some initial research for my thesis-to-be through the Selover Fund.