UW Bothell News

Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the Classroom

Published: December 18, 2012

How one student’s future became clearer through the Study Abroad program 

Eighty-one students from UW Bothell studied abroad in 2012. Applications are now being accepted for the 2013 Study Abroad program. Destinations include Germany, France and the United Kingdom; Zambia, Ecuador, Thailand and Cambodia.

Here is one student’s story. Learn more about the Study Abroad program at  http://www.uwb.edu/connected-learning/global/abroad

Aspasea McKenna

Aspasea McKenna has always felt a strong connection with Japan. After all, the UW Bothell senior is half Japanese and began visiting relatives on the southern island of Kyushu when she was a little girl. Her love for Japan naturally blossomed into the dream of one day studying there. During her sophomore year, McKenna not only realized that dream, she also realized she didn’t know Japan as well as she thought.

“I didn’t really prepare at all. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I went full fledge into it without really looking into the country or the culture,” McKenna says, “Having gone to Japan so many times, I thought I already knew the culture so well, but it turns out I really didn’t.”

The appeal of Tokyo’s bright lights began to dim as McKenna, who is fluent in Japanese, found herself struggling to navigate an unfamiliar culture and government. “The United States is a very individualistic society and Japan is very collectivist. It was so different from what I’d grown accustomed to that it was very difficult to adapt at first. The first few months, I started feeling kind of isolated.”

The feelings of isolation and self-doubt over her decision to study in Japan gave way to excitement as McKenna began to process and accept the cultural differences. She also used creative problem solving. “I started to pick out the good things about Tokyo and the good things about the way people are there and seeing it as it is and picking out the beautiful and unique parts of it. I adapted,” she says, “After that, I was able to see Japan in a different light and really like my experience again. McKenna describes the rest of her study abroad experience as “beautiful.”

While her temporary base was in Japan, McKenna’s lengthy breaks between semesters allowed her to visit eleven countries. It was in Nepal that she used her collaborative and leadership skills to help another student fundraise and build a soccer field for children. This was also one of many stops in her travels that began to feed a new desire - to live a selfless life.

Aspasea McKenna

By being exposed to cultures, governments and countries different from her own, McKenna expanded her mind, network and future opportunities. Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, UW Bothell Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Learning, says this is a valuable and unique, “Study abroad is the passport for students wanting to expand their world, make a difference, and gain a competitive advantage for graduate school and the global workforce.”

Back on American soil, McKenna is completing her senior year while developing ideas for her own international business. She is also sharing her story through her blog and as an honorary ambassador to the UW Bothell study abroad program.

Aspasea McKenna’s Top Five Tips for Studying Abroad

  • Research the many scholarship opportunities that can help you finance your program.
  • Investigate how to set up a bank account, prepaid phone plan, and other basic necessities and processes you might take for granted in the U.S.
  • Learn about the country in which you plan to study, but remain open to new experiences.
  • Mentally prepare to be in a foreign country for an extended period of time.
  • If you begin to feel isolated, talk it through with other exchange students.