Sophie Nasir '25, Orazio Thomas '25 explore Japanese culture through transformative global study

Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing
Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing is the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing and one of the many sites visited by Sophie Nasir ’25 and Orazio Thomas ’25 during their stay in Japan.

Through the Gettysburg Approach, Sophie Nasir '25 and Orazio Thomas '25 gained the necessary knowledge and enduring skills to thrive while studying abroad in Japan this year. Ranking fifth in the nation for semester-length study abroad programs and first in Pennsylvania according to the Open Doors report released by the Institute of International Education (IIE), Gettysburg’s study abroad program is an integral part of that distinctive approach to learning and helped Nasir and Thomas attain intercultural fluency and communication skills to be citizens of the world.

“Gettysburg has opened the doors to new possibilities for the future, and I can't wait to see where it takes me,” said Nasir.

For both Nasir and Thomas, what they learned in the classroom reaffirmed their desires to experience life abroad firsthand. The wealth of information shared by Gettysburg’s first-class faculty in East Asian Studies broadened their view of the world and their place in it. 

“I was always interested in Japan culturally before coming to Gettysburg, but in my first year, I took Prof. [Eleanor] Hogan's First-Year Seminar on Japanese pop culture,” said Thomas, a double major in mathematics and music. “This class, as well as the amazing East Asian Studies environment, really helped foster this interest to the point where I am now taking a minor in Japanese studies.”

Nasir with other students
Nasir with fellow students at Temple Tokyo.

In addition to gaining insight and perspective on Japan in the classroom, the Center for Global Education (CGE) prepared them with the tools and knowledge to be successful in their travels, including a pre-departure orientation (PDO) which connects students with staff from their host program and other global study alumni.

“PDO is a crucial preparatory session for students embarking on global study experiences,” said Interim Director of the CGE Jesse Phillips. “These orientations are designed to provide comprehensive guidance, resources, and support to ensure students are adequately equipped for personal and academic success while they are abroad.”

This program, combined with individual appointments with CGE staff, allows students to see the many opportunities they can have while studying abroad.

“My friend, who goes to another school, is going to be studying abroad in Japan as well, and seeing that process elsewhere has made me realize how easy Gettysburg made everything from applying for a visa to making sure my health is taken care of,” said Thomas.

Thanks to guidance from Gettysburg faculty and staff, Nasir and Thomas easily transitioned to learning at a Japanese university, and have used their time outside of class to explore opportunities in the international community. Nasir, a three-year starter as a setter on the Gettysburg volleyball team, joined the volleyball club team at her host institution and has attended volleyball matches in Osaka. Thomas carried his passion for music to Japan, attending concerts and learning about the country’s music culture.

Panasonic Panthers volleyball match
Nasir visited Osaka to watch a Panasonic Panthers volleyball match.

“Academically, Gettysburg has made a lot of the schoolwork really easy,” said Nasir, a mathematics and East Asian studies double major. “I find myself having a lot more free time to make these big trips. This is definitely one of the many perks when going to a high academic college like Gettysburg.”

While Nasir initially thought she’d be a mathematics teacher, she is now considering teaching in Japan, potentially through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), for which the Japanese government invites college graduates to serve as assistant teachers, sports advisors, or coordinators for international relations in local governments and boards of education. Thomas’ experiences abroad further confirmed his aspirations to be a professional musician.

“While I have been here, I have been taking saxophone lessons from Masato Kumoi, which have been beyond eye-opening,” Thomas added. “What I have learned here with him, as well as the connections I have made here, I believe will be beyond valuable as I pursue a career in music.”

Thomas and Masato Kumoi
Thomas and Masato Kumoi with Mt. Fuji in the background.

In addition to Japan, Gettysburg students have studied in other areas of East Asia, including Vietnam, Singapore, and China. Beginning next year, students will also have an opportunity to study at Yonsei University in South Korea. Global study is just one of the many facets of The Gettysburg Approach, which equips students with a foundation of expansive knowledge and the enduring skills most valued by employers and graduate schools.

“As I have grown as a person and have had experiences like these, I have come to realize how amazing an environment Gettysburg creates in terms of an international community,” Thomas said. “Especially with seeing Japan firsthand, I truly believe that this kind of experience is beyond valuable to anyone.”

Learn more about the enriching opportunities available to students through studying abroad.

By Corey Jewart
Photos provided by subjects
Posted: 04/22/24

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