June 2, 2016
Editor’s Note: As the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team prepares to travel to France for a 10-day foreign tour, we will be presenting the stories of three Irish student-athletes who have already taken advantage of study abroad opportunities this summer. The first installment comes from rising senior captain Sandra Yu, who took part in the Business and Culture in Japan course, sponsored by the Mendoza College of Business and ND International.
By Sandra Yu (’17)
Last year, I was fortunate enough to participate in the pilot study abroad trip for student-athletes to South Africa. This three-week program was created with the intention of providing student-athletes with a true study abroad experience – something we often have to pass up because of our busy schedules. As a result, I knew I could not pass up this opportunity and was glad that I applied. The lessons I learned, the memories made, and the friendships formed all contributed to the incredible, life-changing, and eye-opening experience, which landed me in Japan one year later.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel to Japan this spring. I caught the travel bug and wanted to explore new cultures and learn about other people in the world. Why Japan? In addition to wanting to seize the opportunity to be one of the first participants of this new pilot program, I have always been fascinated by Japanese culture, fashion and tradition and wanted the opportunity to engage with those things.
Furthermore, I found the course content interesting, which could give me some added business knowledge regarding a high-performing world economy in Japan. The course, Business and Culture in Japan, was designed to investigate innovation, entrepreneurship, ethics and relationships in the Japanese business world. In addition to the course content, I was fortunate to have amazing professors and guest lecturers throughout the program – specifically, Professor Jessica McManus Warnell, whose passion, patience and expertise made the trip possible, and natives Hanabusa Sensei and Takamoto Sensei who helped guide us over the course of two weeks.
To say I was excited to travel to Japan is an understatement. I was ecstatic. Finally, after about 15 hours in the clouds, getting through customs, meeting up with the 18 other Notre Dame students in the program and an hour and a half commute to the hotel, we arrived safe and sound at Ours Inn Hankyu Hotel (and no, there is not a T missing in front of Hank, and yes, Yu definitely has some type of relationship to me).
While I could bore you to death by providing you with an in-depth, detailed description of my experiences, I figured it would be a better use of both of our time to share with you some of my favorite moments, things I learned, and typical occurrences you may see if you ever find yourself in Japan. So on that note, I hope you enjoy the following and I hope one day you, too, have the opportunity to visit this beautiful, intriguing country:
- You will typically be told to walk on the left side of the sidewalk – by arrows and by norms. However, don’t feel the need to listen to this. This may be the only rule natives break – but they sure are good at it.
- On the contrary, you can count on almost everyone obeying all crosswalk laws. Even if there is not a car within a 10-mile radius, you will wait until the walking man appears and gives you the green light.
- Using the Japanese language can be difficult, but they appreciate when you try. Not knowing much Japanese results in many mystery meals (delicious ones, fortunately).
- You can expect clean streets, clean public transportation and clean bathrooms. At least, in my opinion, much cleaner than what we are used to in the U.S.
- Amazing sushi and ramen is a given.
- From my experience, the stereotype was validated – Americans are, indeed, loud in relation to Japanese standards.
- Omotenashi – This word translates as ‘selfless hospitality’ and is an important aspect of Japanese culture. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced and was one of my favorite parts of Japanese culture. This word simply means treating guests with the utmost respect in a genuine manner without expecting or seeking anything in return. If you ever travel to Japan, I can guarantee you will feel this type of hospitality. I could go on and on for pages about this topic alone.
- We were taught that trust and loyalty are very important in the Japanese business culture. In my opinion, this is something you do not always see in the States. It was interesting to learn that in some companies, many of the employees are hesitant to have LinkedIn profiles because it is portrayed as looking for another place to work.
- The implementation of ‘sampo-yoshi’ is evident in many Japanese businesses. This word describes a tri-directional satisfaction model in which the buyer, seller, and society are all taken into consideration when economic transactions occur. This philosophy complements the homo-socio-economic model that many Japanese businesses practice – a model that takes into account the societal impact of transactions and helps to narrow the bridge between ethics and the economy. In many other countries, including the US, we see the practice of the homo-economic model, meaning not much emphasis is placed on the societal implications of transactions.
- When in doubt, bow and say ‘arigatou gozaimasu’ – it means ‘thank you’.
- If you think your days were long in high school and grade school think again. After talking to a student from Keio University, I was shocked when she told me what her schedule was growing up. She would wake up at 7 a.m., go to school from about 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and then go to juku school (cram school) to study for entrance exams. She would arrive home around 9 p.m. and do the same thing the next day, hardly ever having family dinners.
- If you get the chance, go to a Japanese baseball game!
- There is a difference between shrines and temples. Shrines are usually rooted from Shintoism and typically have ‘torii‘ archways while temples are usually rooted from Buddhism and pagoda, the multi-tiered towers seen throughout Asian architecture.
- I could go on and on for a long time. If you made it to this point, thank you for staying strong.
Overall, I enjoyed immersing myself in the culture of Japan, specifically in Tokyo. I learned more about myself, had the chance to form new friendships and connections with fellow students and administration, and developed a deep love and respect for another nation. I could not have asked for a better group to travel with and I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have had through Notre Dame. I had an incredible two weeks and left Japan already longing to return.
– ND –