Meghan Finnerty | November 29, 2021
100 Days in America: International Student Asuka Kawamura
It’s been 100 days since Asuka Kawamura arrived at SUNY Brockport as an exchange student from Toyo University (in Tokyo, Japan).
She’s already experienced a variety of new things. Adjusting to life in Brockport means living outside of a big city, attending American classrooms, and trying new foods like Buffalo chicken wing dip. She’s even explored the state, visiting the Finger Lakes and Niagara Falls.
Leaving Tokyo for New York didn’t surprise her family at all. “I was saying I want to study abroad since I was a high school student,” she said.
Kawamura was looking for exchange programs that had environmental science and would bring her closer to nature, she said. Toyo University and SUNY Brockport have had a relationship since 2018.
“Before coming here, I was so nervous because I was still learning English,” Kawamura said. “I was thinking Japanese people are more kind than Americans before coming here. But the stereotype changed.” She explained that she’s met so many kind people and when she has trouble saying what she wants to, others help her find the words. “I’m feeling pretty comfortable to live here,” she said.
She has made a friend who invites her over every weekend, cooks American foods with her and they celebrated Thanksgiving together. “I love to make American food with my friend,” Kawamura said. They’ve made mac and cheese and Buffalo chicken. When she misses food from home, she found a great sauce at Wegmans that she cooks while living on campus.
Since her arrival on August 20, 2021, she’s noticed a handful of cultural differences. First, that people hold the door for strangers. You would hold the door for friends but not strangers. “Japanese people are more shy,” she said.
Secondly, how American classrooms operate.
“In America, there are more discussions, and students have conversations with professors during class. But in Japan, we only sit and listen to the lectures.” Kawamura said. “We don’t usually ask the professor question by raising a hand.” Instead, when the class is done, students hang out in the room for a while, asking each other their questions and talking about the day’s lesson. Then they go to a cafe, restaurant, or hangout together. But at Brockport she’s noticed everyone just leaves. That’s one reason Kawamura says it has been a little more difficult to find friends in her classes.
As an exchange student, Kawamura was able to choose any classes she was interested in for her one year at Brockport. Her favorite class is in the Department of Environmental Science and Ecology. It has a lecture and a lab which she called a “good experience so far.”
“Traveling halfway across the globe to study for a full year in a new country, with a different educational system and customs can be daunting. Now add to that a pandemic. Despite all these stressors, the students have been one of the most engaged cohorts we’ve had and it is precisely this cross-cultural interaction that is the core of the J-Visa exchange program.”
Keith Davis, Associate Director of International Enrollment
In the upcoming spring semester, Kawamura hopes to visit New York City over spring break and would like to see Disney World in Florida before she returns to Tokyo in May.
It’s only been 100 days but she already feels a connection to Brockport and plans to visit in the future.
“I think I will miss Brockport,” Kawamura said.