Study Abroad


Maki Shioda

In 2011, I did a year-long exchange program at Porto Alegre in southern Brazil. I can say with full confidence that it was the most rewarding year of my academic life. The greatest reward was that I was able to learn “practical Portuguese.” At first, I was not able to communicate well with the local people, and I got discouraged. But then, in order to increase my opportunities for conversation, I took on new challenges—volunteering at an elementary school and learning samba and capoeira. As a result, my Portuguese naturally improved, I made Brazilian friends, and I was able to meet people that I can call “close friends” as well.

At the same time, I also learned that when you step outside of Japan, you play the role of a “little diplomat.” When you are in another country, quite naturally your own actions and words are seen by the local people not only as a reflection on you; it is quite easy for them to see it as a reflection on Japan as a country as well. For that reason, it is important that people who are studying abroad be careful about their behavior as they lead their lives. Fortunately, a Brazilian friend that I became close to had a positive view of my behavior, became interested in Japan, and decided to do a short-term study abroad program in Japan.

Having had these experiences, by the time my year in Brazil was ending, I was completely won over. Brazil is a country that is brimming with love and captures people’s hearts. It definitely captured my heart.