Studying Abroad: 5 Tips From Carrie Zuk '15

Carrie Zuk

Carrie shared her study abroad travel tips with us!

Carrie graduated in 2015 with a double major in nutrition and food & information technology. During her time at Simmons, she traveled to Japan twice through our Study Abroad program. She gave us her top 5 travel tips. 

  1. Find ways to immerse yourself in the culture
  2. I've traveled to Japan 3 times and a few places in Europe. The first time I went to Japan I was 15 — and not adventurous when it came to food. I tried a couple of new foods and the second time I pushed myself a little but when I came home I felt like I missed out on something: adventure and self-growth. I felt like I didn't make the most of the experience. When I traveled to Japan the third time, one of my main goals was to push myself past my comfort zone. By keeping an open mind to new things, for example, chicken heart and pickled eggplant, I discovered delicious foods that I never expected to enjoy. The experience gave me confidence to try things outside my comfort zone, even beyond food.

  3. Don't be afraid to try new things —you never know what you will get out of it! 
  4. When I did an internship in Tokyo last summer, even though my Japanese skills were only at a beginner level at the time, listening to local radio further exposed me to Japanese music, language and topics. These allowed me to research further on my own.

  5. Make the most of your time
  6. Haruka is one of my best friends that I met in Tokyo last summer. I met her only 9 days before I returned to Boston. We realized on the first day we met how well we got along, and found a way to see each other twice again before I left, even though we were both very busy. It was amazing to form such a natural and close relationship in such a short amount of time and I am eagerly awaiting the next time we can connect. 

  7. You might get emotional near the end of your time abroad
  8. Don't let feeling emotional hold you back from enjoying your final days! Every time I spend time in another culture for a long period of time, I have a difficult time near the end of the trip. I usually get emotional, and sometimes I get moody and slightly irritated. When I was in Kyoto two summers ago, I didn't feel like socializing, but I didn't want to miss out on enjoying Japan. I decided to explore the city after class by myself. It was a wonderful experience because I couldn't rely on anyone else to speak Japanese, order food, or know where I was going. By the end of the day I knew what I was capable of and that I couldn't let any of my final days in Japan go to waste.

  9. Language does not have to be a barrier
  10. Before returning to Japan for my programming internship last summer, I hadn’t taken a Japanese course or sufficiently practiced Japanese since I was in Kyoto the summer before. This made me quite nervous to return to Japan to intern somewhere where no one else spoke English.

    The technology team had six people — including me. My team leader, Chaya-san, spoke some English, but not quite enough to explain the programming to me. I was assigned to a project involving PHP, a programming language I didn’t have experience in. Okamoto-san, was a PHP programmer and she offered to help me since I was having trouble. I was very grateful, the only problem was she also didn’t speak enough English to explain what I needed to know.

    Her solution was: speaking to me in Japanese while drawing pictures to explain. This was one of the most interesting moments during my time abroad, it was a strange feeling to be improving my Japanese and programming skills at the same time, without even thinking in English. This experience taught me that even if you only know a few words in the other language, you can still do so much without using your native language.