Haley Francis-Halstead

Location:  Kyoto, Japan
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Major: Visual Communication Design

Program Name: Japan: Biology, Design, and History of Japanese Gardens

Check out Haley's YouTube videos from her time in Japan!

What’s your best memory from your time abroad?
We had three tour guides: a Japan native, one from Shanghai, China, and another from Hong Kong. I did a YouTube series while I was in Japan about my study abroad experience, and one was composed of different video shots that I had taken of the city, the temples, and the gardens. The tour guide who had lived in Japan her entire life watched it, and started crying because she saw her country from an entirely new perspective.

Academic Planning
The program fit within my required coursework as a general elective. My advisor approved it because it counted as my science credit.

Initial Thoughts on Arrival
I thought, "holy cow, it’s huge". There were so many people. We had to take an hour long train ride from the airport to the hotel, and I just stared out the window the entire time; it was like something out of a movie.

We stayed in a regular hotel for most of the trip. The last three days we stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan and slept on tatami mats.

The course was the "History and Biology of Japanese Gardens". Every day we visited 2-3 temples or shrines learned about their history, architecture, and design. We were able to experience how each garden was designed based on their history.

Money Matters
It’s never too early to start thinking about studying abroad. If you plan as a freshman, you can space out your classes accordingly so your student loan will be sure to apply. Also, be aware of scholarships.

Leisure & Travel
We explored a lot of different places downtown – sushi bars, arcades, and purposely went to restaurants that did not have English menus.

Everyone stared because we were obviously tourists. But, we knew some Japanese and that was shocking to them. Therewas a strong level of respect because we went to their temples to learn about their culture, instead of going to take a selfie. Our tour guides also told us the correct phrases to use that showed respect in order to gain respect with the local population.

Cultural Adjustment
I am not a very religious person, and we visited a lot of temples and shrines. For me, instead of thinking I had to instantly believe everything about the religion, it was all about introspective. I could reflect on how I could think deeper about my own review of religion. Also, I got very good about taking off and putting my shoes on when we visited sacred areas!

You should know your resources, whether it is money, advice, or YouTube. Try and be as prepared as you can. You're going to get there, and not know what you’re doing, but that’s okay. Be open to ideas and taking suggestions and embrace being out of your comfort zone.


Effect on Career Goals
Did this trip reaffirm your career goals? Did it change them? What skills did you learn on this trip that will help you?

This trip really inspired me to continue making YouTube videos. Ever since I got back, I have been dedicated to uploading once a week. Even though I had limited time while I was abroad, I was able to upload three times a week; I stopped questioning my ability to do it.

The convincing factor for me was the professor leading the trip. I met with him before I even applied and asked him why he lead the trip and why he was so passionate about it to see if our interests aligned. Even though it was a science program, it was worth going on because that.

Haley Francis-Halstead