Ohio University has a large amount of international students enrolled in the university every year. In 2022, OU reported a total of 997 international students between undergraduate and graduate enrollment. Students have had a range of experiences at the university, but Hikaru Imaizumi’s journey is especially intriguing.
Imaizumi, a junior studying the English language and culture, goes to Chubu University in Japan. Chubu is one of OU’s sister schools, and there are many opportunities via study abroad programs for students from either school to study at one another.
Chubu University is located in Kasugai, Aichi, Japan, which is a small suburb outside of Nagoya. Located in central Japan, Chubu is surrounded by many mountain ranges, so the area is a beautiful spot for hiking activities. OU’s study abroad program in Chubu is for people looking to study the Japanese language as well as the area.
Imaizumi discovered the study abroad program that Chubu University offers and traveled to Athens for the four-month-long program from August to December of 2022. She experienced some language barriers when she first arrived at OU and only knew how to introduce herself. However, she knew she was very interested in expanding her knowledge of the language and spent a lot of time with OU students.
"I don't like studying at my desk, so I thought that talking with them would help me study,” she said.
After a wonderful four months in Athens, Imaizumi decided to pause her studies at Chubu University. Instead, she returned to OU for the year so she could continue taking English classes in a way where she was fully immersed in the English language and culture. Imaizumi said her friends often share how proud of her they are for how hard she has been working to better understand and speak the English language.
“My friends often say to me, ‘Hikaru, you could only introduce yourself. You couldn’t even use don’t and couldn’t last year, but I'm proud of your growth,’” she said.
During her time at OU, Imaizumi has been able to experience some American holidays that she hasn’t before. She is so far enjoying her time spent with friends during Halloween, Thanksgiving and the current holiday season.
While Imaizumi has been at OU, she has noticed how she has changed quite a bit from when she was at school in Japan to now. When first arriving at OU, Imaizumi described herself as shy, but as she has had to speak English to many new people, she has come out of her shell quite a bit.
“My life in America has changed both my character and personality I think,” Imaizumi said.
One difference Imaizumi noticed during her time at OU is the U.S.’s flexible way of thinking. There are a lot of differences between Japan’s and the U.S.’s way of thinking on topics such as LGBTQIA+, and Imaizumi said she appreciates the way Americans are so inclusive and kind.
Another thing that Imaizumi noticed while she has been taking classes at OU is how her image of the U.S. has changed over just a few months. Before coming to the U.S., she was worried people wouldn’t be as nice to her, but she has felt welcomed and included from the moment she arrived.
“It's very different because everyone is very kind to me, and everyone compliments me,” she said.
Imaizumi is very happy to be taking classes at OU and feels that she made the correct decision to come back. As the semester comes to a close, Imaizumi is grateful for all of the life experiences she has been able to have because of the friends she has made at OU.