Finally On My Way! (Pre-Departure: Amelia Nofoagatoto’a, Japan)

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Hi my name is Amelia Nofoagatoto’a and I am in my last semester of my senior year at Hawai’i Pacific University. I am majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Japanese. However, for this upcoming semester I will be studying in Nagoya, Japan at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies starting later on this month.

Living in Hawai’i all of my life, I always had a fascination with traveling outside of Oahu. For those who are looking from the outside looking in, it might seem that Hawai’i is a great place to live. While that is true it can also be repetitive for those who only know the islands all of their lives. Everyday begins to look the same and a routine begins to form. So there was always a looming thought of what more the world has to offer. And with this golden opportunity to embark on this new adventure I knew I could not let this chance pass me by.

The reason behind my choice to study abroad in Japan is complicated to boil down to one solid answer. Primarily because there are so many factors in my decision for choosing Japan. For starters, due to my minor in Japanese I am obligated to study abroad in Japan, but this is not the only motivator behind choosing the program in Nagoya. In fact, it can be traced all the way back during my time in high school.

In high school I got to meet and become friends with some of the foreign exchange students. All of them came from different walks of life like China, South Korea, Japan, Mexico and many other countries. Each of them shared stories from their childhood and would talk about their cultures and the cultural shock they have been experiencing while attending the school. I always eagerly took in what they were telling me especially being a part of a minority myself. It also fed that desire to want to see more and get a feel for the excitement that glistened from their eyes.

Out of all the stories I heard, the ones that connected to me the most were those coming from the Japanese students. In Hawai’i there is a large population of Japanese immigrants and tourists who come to Hawai’i either for vacation or a fresh start. As well historically from the days of the plantation there were Japanese influences that can be found in the islands especially with food. Also I have always had a love for Japanese media and food, so choosing to study abroad in Japan definitely seemed like a win in my books.

Additionally, studying in Japan is a stepping stone in my lifelong goal. After my years of schooling, my primary goal is to enter the legal field and become a family law lawyer specializing in child rights and the foster care system.

Like I said, there are a lot of Japanese immigrants that reside in Hawai’i. However, they are not the only ethnic group that makes up Hawai’i’s diverse population. In my neighborhood alone there are Micronesians, Hawaiians, Filipinos, Samoans, Chinese, Vietnamese, and many more. Due to generational differences along with cultural standards, growing up I have witnessed people go through traumatic experiences. Some that would lead to them going in and out of the foster care system and being left confused on whether they were going home to their parents or into the arms of another foster family. In addition there is also the language barrier that can drive a wedge between proper care or getting taken advantage of by the system.

I want to make that change and I want to be the voice for the next generation. However, it is crucial for me to learn more and experience their point of view. I have always been advised that it is always better to experience first hand to understand others a little more than the you of today. Even if it is one culture it still is a step in the right direction and becoming more open to learning and observing from the outsider’s perspective that many foreigners have when they first come to America. So, all in all taking everything into account the best place for me to travel and learn in is Japan.

Now with that being said the process of everything leading up to me leaving is a different story. Along the way leading up to the point of finally embarking on the journey there were obstacles in the way, but I managed to slide by them. The obstacles were not outlandish or created complications, but they were inconveniences that made the process more difficult then it should have been. Some of this included worries over proper documents, getting key elements of applications in time, and the fear of loneliness. Knowing that I am not the first or the last person to go through these trials and tribulations here are some advice and tips to ease through these hurdles.

First and foremost, make sure any medication being brought into the country is legal. If it is not, immediately learn what the process is to bring that important medication and start on the paperwork immediately. It sounds ridiculous and tedious, but believe me it will save a lot of time and paperwork stress. I learned the hard way trying to figure out if it is legal to bring my inhaler.

Second, when applying for the student visa ensure that all of the correct documentation is in order. An easy method for that is to make a checklist and put everything together in a folder. And if there are any questions or concerns about the process, making a call to the local consulate in the area is the best solution to getting quick and easy answers. An example could be if one were to have questions about payments for the visa.

Third, check to see if the school offers a buddy system. I will be traveling by myself to a foreign country for the first time. So when I saw the school I am going to offer a buddy system I decided to sign up because I saw it as an opportunity to meet new people and have the reassurance that I at least knew two people before heading to the school. Also it was an efficient way for me to get answers to questions I was still unsure about from peers at the school. For example, how I am supposed to register for my courses as an international student.

Last, but certainly not least, be prepared to have to go with the flow. Recently I had to deal with last minute cancellations and had to change my flight. Instead of freaking out like I normally do I had to remind myself that things like this happen to a lot of people. It was still a minor inconvenience, but at the end of the day I knew that stressing over this would not benefit myself or the workers helping me with the situation. And I realized that during this whole experience being able to go with the flow in certain scenarios would allow me to be more open and learn new ways to handle spontaneous events life throws at me.

In conclusion, as this blog is coming to a close, I hope this gives at least a small glimpse as to who I am as a person and give a few helpful tips along the way. For more to come during my time studying in Nagoya please check on the Funds for Education website! さようなら!