Mao Yamada didn’t understand why people at the bus stop were talking to her. In Yamada’s hometown of Shizuoka, Japan, no one makes conversation when waiting for the bus.

Aside from becoming accustomed to conversation at the bus stop, Yamada depended largely on Asian organizations at UTSA, such as the Filipino Student Association (FSA), to converse and make friends in San Antonio.

“I have more international friends, and it is good because they’re international students, and we feel the same way, even though we are from different countries,” Yamada said.

“It’s easier to get along with them.”

Although Yamada didn’t feel an enormous sense of culture shock in San Antonio, she noticed that American customs, especially in the classroom, were different.

“In Japan, we can’t have snacks or drinks in the classroom. When I was in class a guy next to me started eating, and I was like, ‘what is he doing,” Yamada reflected. “It’s just different here.”

International graduate student, Ryota Yogo, who is also a Japanese native, struggled to get used to discussion-oriented learning in the classroom. Another major difference was getting accustomed to calling instructors by their first name because in Japan, elders and professors are never addressed by their first name.

Yogo says that it’s not easy and it takes time, but “you need to try to be a Texan if you live in Texas.”

Despite having to get used to calling people by their first name, Yogo’s social life hasn’t been too grim while living in America because Yogo realizes that he and other international students “cannot do it without support from the locals .”

Yogo has made several friends in San Antonio and is thankful that they have helped him get along in his new home; many international students have difficulty interacting with American students and end up feeling left out and isolated.

“Statistics say that more than 70 percent of international students in the U.S. have never been invited to an American home while they study in America,” Yogo states.

Yogo emphasized that it’s imperative for international students to quickly adjust to the American lifestyle. Common tasks, such as grocery shopping, are more difficult to accomplish without having a vehicle, and most international students cannot afford to have cars in San Antonio.

Even when Yogo is able to get to the grocery store, he still misses home because there is a lack of authentic Japanese food.

Another aspect that was different about American grocery stores, Yamada noted was that people in San Antonio use a lot of plastic bags when shopping. “Japan is a small country. We try to save as much as we can. We have our own bags so we can prevent global warming,” Yamada says.

Yamada laughed when she considered the differences in global efforts that Japan and the U.S. make. Japan makes a large effort to conserve electricity by not using air conditioners, while the U.S. heavily relies on air conditioners, “This country is huge and even if Japan tries so hard, it’s not going to fix anything.”

Overall, for Yogo, studying and living in UTSA has been positive and inspirational. “I like UTSA and San Antonio because they’re growing. In other words, they try to press forward from where they are. That’s what I love about UTSA and San Antonio, and that’s what I believe I should do. Studying abroad makes you stretch and help get out of your comfort zone.”

 

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