University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Global and Regional Studies Program


UVM senior Grace Stanford, winner of the 2013 Claire M. Lintilhac Memorial Award for Excellence in Asian Studies, shares a "magical" study abroad experience in Japan.


River Walk


After dreaming of learning Japanese for a lifetime, I sat in my first Japanese class as a sophomore at UVM. A year and a half later, I was boarding a plane for Tokyo, armed with three semesters of language and nearly two decades’ experience of loving Studio Ghibli movies, learning Japanese history, and wondering what more Japan had to offer. It was the beginning of an adventure I had imagined for years, the realization of which I could not comprehend. Stepping off the train in my tiny city of Mishima seventeen hours after I left home and seeing the darkened silhouette of Mt. Fuji greet me from the platform, I knew I was entering a magical place.

And ‘magical’ is the word I use most to describe my experience abroad. From the walking adventures exploring our city to shopping at the grocery store, from setting off on a four-day tour of Kansai by myself to sitting in a tiny apartment surrounded by both American and Japanese friends making takoyaki, from my fumbled excuse for Japanese in the first weeks to conversing comfortably with strangers and friends in my final days, my time in Japan was the most magical and wonderful adventure I have ever had.  Japan taught me so much, gave me so much and, essentially, stole my heart. After four and a half months, my language skills were improving at a rapid pace, I had made so many beautiful friends, both Japanese and American, and my mind and heart were filled to capacity with the natural and cultural treasures Japan had shown me. I did not want to leave, but I knew that I had to. However, as I gazed longingly at the island from the window of my returning plane, it was with a certainty in my heart that I would return someday to continue the next chapter in my lifelong adventure with Japan.




Visiting the Daibutsu in Kamakura




Visiting the Daibutsu in Kamakura.








A traditional ryokan inn in Ito, Shizuoka



A traditional ryokan inn in Ito, Shizuoka








Okonomiyaki party



Okonomiyaki party







Meal with new friends



Several students and I joined a local church during our stay. They welcomed us every week in the warmest way, asking about our adventures, and teaching us about their families and lives.  As a bonus, we shared a delicious meal after services and learned so much about Japanese food!







Ghibli Museum in Tokyo




Visiting the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo was a dream coming true inside a dream. Absolutely one of the most magical places I’ve ever been.









English tutoring program




Many exchange students participated in an English tutoring program and helped junior college students practice their speaking skills!








Climbing Mt. Fuji



Climbing Mt. Fuji was one of the greatest victories of the trip. Having stared at her for 4 ½ months, she gifted us with a beautiful day and a view worth the crazy amount of work it took to climb her.







Climbing Mt. Fuji

Top of Mt. Fuji

Last modified April 11 2013 04:17 PM