My name is Rachel Larson (Miller when I was a student with SIS) and I am now pursuing international opportunities! I studied with SIS in the summer of 2019 (I did both summer terms) and attended Anderson University (graduated in 2020). Now I live in Japan and teach English at a middle school in Kumamoto City, as well as volunteer in a variety of facets including teaching English, teaching dance, dancing at church events, and leading a Bible study.
It’s really hard to sum up in one paragraph the impact that SIS had in my life and how I am now using those skills abroad, but here is my best attempt (now a short blog post):
I chose to study Spanish and Dance because I desire to communicate and connect on a deeper level with more people than I can by just speaking English. Living in Spain definitely helped improve my Spanish and added to my love for the Spanish food, culture, and people. What I did not realize at the time is that Semester in Spain also gave me skills that would later help me with living in Japan.
Even though I knew very little of the Japanese language and culture when my husband & I moved to Japan in October 2022, I was not overwhelmed. Instead, I knew that in order to learn and create deeper connections with the Japanese people, I have to take some risks. Language study is not merely reading a textbook, it is practicing with native speakers and making mistakes and learning from the mistakes. Appreciating foreign cultures is not merely watching a video about another country, it is going out and trying the food and experiencing the activities with the people. Learning and growing require taking risks. The Japanese language is very difficult and the Japanese culture is very different from my own, but I am able to navigate the differences & difficulties by taking risks in order to learn and appreciate the beauty of life here in Japan.
Even though I am not currently speaking Spanish nor dancing on a daily basis, the skills that I have learned through my college experience with SIS have helped me connect with my community in Japan on a deeper level, and for that I am very grateful.