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From the Deep South to the Far East: A Year Abroad in Nisshin, Japan

Nicole Puckett in Japan, learning about traditional tea ceremony

Nicole Puckett in Japan, learning about traditional tea ceremony

Leaving home to attend college is a challenging endeavor for many students. Leaving the country to study abroad for a full year raises the challenge to a different level altogether. Students have to face the immersion in a new language and culture coupled with a new way of seeing and being seen. Nicole Puckett (International Studies, ’15) experienced all of that as she spent a year abroad in Japan.

Puckett, supported by a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, spent last year enrolled at Nagoya University of Foreign studies in Nisshin, Japan. During her year abroad, she was able to work on her language skills—both in writing and speaking, take courses in international law, and volunteer at an orphanage.

Puckett said one of the best parts about the exchange program was how her Japanese university offered integrated courses. “It was fantastic to engage with Japanese students and learn more about their society while getting class credits,” she said.

Puckett was also able to explore the country. She visited several shrines, saw ethnic dances, explored Tokyo and participated in sadō, a Japanese tea ceremony.

Puckett believes the University Honors Program prepared her for experiences on the trip by developing her global perspective and sense of curiosity though coursework and experiential learning. “I wanted to have an open mind about Japan. I didn’t want to go in with too many generalizations,” Puckett said. Maintaining a sense of openness helped Puckett receive more out of the experience. “Everyone was friendly. They were all willing to answer my questions and help me find my way.”

As part of her obligation to the Gilman Scholarship, Puckett must engage in a “Follow-on Project” to promote study abroad among college and high school students who may think that study abroad is not for them or is financially out of reach. Puckett plans to teach a section of Japanese history in her hometown high school in the hopes of encouraging more students to consider travelling to Japan and other countries.  She wants to instill that same sense of curiosity and a global perspective that motivated her to travel to Japan.

“The Georgia curriculum has removed Geography from classrooms. It’s a necessary skill for understanding people and yourself. I feel like Geography is an important skill for all students,” Puckett said.

“Learning a foreign language is the best way to become a global participant. I’m prepared to take on the world now,” Puckett said. “I would recommend this exchange program to anyone.”

Her time in Japan was only the start of her travels abroad. After she graduates, Puckett intends to go to graduate school for International Affairs, and hopes to have more international travel in her immediate future. “I’d like to go to Morocco or Eastern Europe next,” she said.


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