This is Anum Bajwa reporting live from Kyoto, Japan! I am a rising senior finishing up my Psychology major as well as Neuroscience and Chemistry minors, and a certificate in Global Health (a mouthful, I know). This Summer will be a true trip around the globe as I will be in Kyoto, Japan for 6 weeks and Cape Town, South Africa for the next 6. It has been a dream of mine to study abroad in college and I am so excited it is finally able to happen!
I am currently almost 3 weeks into my Summer program at CIEE, which is a Pitt-Recognized Program. Specifically, I chose to do the Open Campus Program which allowed me to choose 2 locations to study abroad in. Studying with CIEE was a good fit for me as someone who is curious about how living and studying like a local could be in two very different locations and cultures. It does mean a long time away from home, but it is very well worth the experience to brave a little homesickness.
I chose these two specific locations at two very different parts of the globe because of how much there is to learn from them. Japan is a country of rich ancient history and some of the most important influences for popular culture now come from Japan. It is a society built highly on respect- from the way people address each other to the emphasis of punctuality. The food is different from both my Pakistani and American cultures so not only am I changing where I am living for 6 weeks, but how I am living. It is also interesting to learn about how post-war Japan recovered and became rapidly modernized as we know it now. South Africa has its own rich history of racial struggles and social change specifically during the period of apartheid. It perhaps is the result of the bubble in my community, but I had not even heard of apartheid until my senior year of high school until I read Cry, the Beloved Country. It speaks volumes about how narrow our view of the world and the strifes of people in countries other than our own can be. It is important to me to learn from the leadership and people of South Africa in hopes I will be able to create more conversation and awareness in the lives of those around me.
I am taking 2 classes along with a survival language class at each respective location. In Japan, I am taking Japanese Media, Film, and Anime and Japanese Theater. In South Africa, I am taking South African Literature and From Rhodes to Mandela and from Apartheid to AIDS. As you can see, most of these classes do not have anything to do with Psychology or science but I did that on purpose in order to experience learning from a different point of view in regards to both course content as well as style of the instruction/learning dynamic in Japan and South Africa.
Being in Kyoto for a couple weeks now and starting classes has shifted my expectations for the courses, the experience, and for myself I set before embarking on my first flight. I think some differences between my science based classes in Pittsburgh and the ones in Kyoto are the increase in necessary reading to supplement the information in a holistic sense rather than memorizing the steps of the Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Complex. It does mean a lot of reading, but with reading comes an opportunity to sit in a cafe and sip a nice cup of coffee!
For now, I am happy to have this opportunity to even be in Japan and soon South Africa as a study abroad student. My days so far are filled with enriching classes, silly night chats with my roommate, and some surprisingly awesome Japanese convenience store food. There is always much to learn and much to see but taking it one step at a time helps keep me in a state of gratitude that the lovely people of Japan and South Africa are happy to share a slice of their country with me- I hope to explore them in the weeks to come.