International Business Major Experiences Japanese Culture in Study Abroad Program

Adams photo

After preparing for the day, Clark County native Russell Adams walked a little less than half a mile to the train station, where he would then ride a train to the end of the line, walk another half mile, eat lunch nearby, and go to class … in Japan.

Adams, an international business major at Eastern Kentucky University, recently studied business and international business at Rikkyo University in Ikebukuro, Japan, part of the metropolitan Tokyo area, through EKU’s Study Abroad program.

“EKU facilitated the opportunity to go on this exchange,” Adams said. “Many of my classes, such as Japanese language and culture, as well as my business courses, such as accounting and international business, helped me be prepared for life in Japan, as well as the course work I had there. Classes with sensei Noriko Okura helped to peak my interest in Japan to even be interested (in studying abroad).”

Within an hour of anywhere in Tokyo, Adams traveled often during his stay. “One day I might go to Shinjuku, then on another maybe Akihabara, then on another maybe Odaiba,” he said.

Adams, a graduate of George Rogers Clark High School, attended Rikkyo without any EKU peers, but he created many new connections there.

“The people of Japan and all the other students from all around the world, getting to meet them, getting to know them, and spending time with them has been one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “It has provided me friends from many different places and many different cultures and ways of life that I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life. I can now say that I know and consider myself friends with people on five of the seven continents, from over 17 different countries. These connections are something that a person just does not get the chance to have without going abroad for something such as this. Japan is a place that a person can read and study about for years, but until one goes and experiences it first hand for a decent amount of time, they will never quite get it.”

After his EKU graduation in Fall 2015, Adams hopes to work with a Japanese company and return to Rikkyo University for graduate school.

Though the Japanese culture differs from his own, Adams overcame barriers such as language.

“The majority of signs and some other things are in multiple languages, normally Japanese and English, but sometime Korean as well,” he said. “One example: ticket machines to buy a train ticket can be switched over to English with just a button press. While most people in stores and restaurants typically only speak Japanese, sometimes I would run into someone who spoke English. At most non-western style restaurants there is one of two ways to order food. At some places there is a vending machine by the door where you purchase a ticket for your food then go sit down at the counter, put your ticket up on the counter and soon your food will be served. Or you sit down, pick up your menu which has pictures of all the food and point at what you want to the waiter. In general, most Japanese have a higher educational attainment level than most Americans so I never had to deal with anyone who was unable to help me despite being unable to communicate through speaking.”

 Adams encourages students to study abroad and be accepting of various cultures.

“I think that all study abroad experiences will have different effects on different people, but the experiences that students will have change them and give them a different outlook on life,” he said. “I can just about guarantee a good time if you are accepting of the different culture you will have to live in for your time abroad. Don’t let that (culture) be a deterrent. The experiences and connections to be gained are too great to turn down. Always remember there are good people all around the world. Just go, be prepared for something different and have fun.”

Published on April 23, 2014