Erion spent six weeks in Tokyo, Japan with the IES Abroad Tokyo Summer Program. During their time in Japan, they had many opportunities to be immersed in different aspects of Japanese culture, from the bustling streets of Shinjuku and Harajuku, Tokyo, to the more rural areas of Mobara, Chiba Prefecture. While in Japan, Erion stayed at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in Shibuya, and also took daily language classes at the center. As a part of the language class, several assignments were assigned that required students to go out into the community surrounding the Olympic center and use conversational Japanese with locals. Over the course of the program, IES Abroad planned multiple day and weekend excursions, including trips to traditional Japanese inns called ryoukans, Tokyo Tower, Asakusa, and Mobara. The Mobara weekend excursion featured a homestay with a family from the area, and a visit to a local high school, where IES Abroad students were able to talk to Japanese high schoolers about the American Education system, and in turn, observe how responsible and hospitable Japanese students can be. The Japanese students demonstrated calligraphy, and a traditional tea ceremony procedure to IES Abroad students during their visit. During free time from class and homework, Erion indulged in their interests in anime and manga and took the trains to visit some of Tokyo's most popular locations to buy goods and experience the mecca of all things anime, manga, and gaming: Akihabara.
CEE Title: The American Abroad: Social Identity and Positionality in a Global and Domestic Environment
Our CEE was set up in a way that allowed for a lot of audience feedback and participation. We started by introducing ourselves, our study abroad countries, and also a little bit about some of the issues we faced abroad concerning aspects of our identity. Our cohort found out that all of us had experienced micro aggressions of sorts from citizens of our host countries, whether that be intentional or unintentional. We discussed how it was extremely jarring to experience social faux pas scenarios in our host countries on multiple occasions, and how the reliance on preconceived notions about our host country initially hindered us. We had created a series of open ended questions to spark discussion that allowed attendees of our event to share their own study abroad experiences. We were lucky enough to have both our study abroad coordinator and another prominent faculty member of international affairs attend our event, and they both were just as eager to share their experiences abroad. There were several people at our event that had never traveled outside the US, but the way we framed our CEE allowed us to still get feedback and experiences from them too. We were trying to stress that discrimination and harassment occurs both domestically and abroad, but the way we deal with these situations can differ greatly depending on several factors such as our race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other parts of our social identity. One of our main points was to stress that sometimes there are situations where we cannot act the way we would in our own hometowns or countries, because it is not safe to or not accepted to speak out against injustices. Living in the US allows us to openly and somewhat freely criticize our government, and our fellow citizens when we notice something that is unethical or wrong in society, but as some of us have learned, not every country’s citizens have that right, and it can literally be a matter of life and death in many circumstances. We wanted attendees to leave our event with a broadened view on both the US and its impact on other first world and developing nations, and we hope that we sparked curiosity into discovering the reasons certain countries view the US and US Americans in a certain light.