Student Spotlight: Haruna Kawakita, 2015 Kokunai Alumna

As part of JCMU commitment to bettering the Hikone community, every year we offer two week in-country study abroad programs that allow Japanese students to live with American students and experience American life right at our Hikone campus! The program benefits both the American and Japanese students at JCMU, providing both a chance to come together and understand each others’ languages and cultures.

Many of our Kokunai program alumni go on to complete full-fledged study abroad programs in the United States! One such student is Haruna Kawakita, a 2015 Kokunai alumna who is now studying  abroad at Michigan State University on the American Semester Program (ASP). We reached out to Haruna and asked her about how her experiences at JCMU in Hikone helped prepare her for life in Michigan.


What university in Japan do you attend, and where is it located?

I go to Tokyo University of Agriculture in Tokyo, Setagaya City.

What are you currently studying?

I am currently studying forest preservation. My major is forestry and I learn about trees, plants, and so on.

What do you want to do after graduation?

I want to go graduate school, though I’m not sure whether I want to go to a school in Japan or in other country yet.

What city/prefecture/country are you from?

I came from Kobe, Hyōgo prefecture.

What is one thing you would like to share about your home city/country?

Kobe is one of the biggest and oldest port towns in Japan. Because of this, I like sea as much as the forest. There is also good beef sold in the area called “Kobe beef.” It is really famous in Japan.

In the spring of 2015, you participated as a student in JCMU Hikone’s in-country study abroad (Kokunai) program. Can you please tell us a little bit about the program and why you decided to participate in it?

The Kokunai program gave Japanese students the opportunity to have experiences similar to studying abroad while staying in Japan. Only students coming from America were around, so on the program we could live normally with them for about two weeks while speaking nothing but English. I made a lot of friends that live in America, and it would be no exaggeration to say that it was one of the reasons why I came to study abroad in America.

As I was not a Kansai university student at the time, my father found out about the program. However, even before that, my family was familiar with the fact that my university (Tokyo University of Agriculture) has a study abroad agreement with MSU. Because of that, we paid close attention to these opportunities.

Did the program help you develop your English language skills?


What was your favorite part of the program?

The fact that I could live in the same residence and room with American students. It helped me learn about what life is like inside of American homes. That experience has become useful now in my life at MSU! I think that I am really lucky that I met a great roommate here.

Overall, what would you say to Japanese students considering JCMU’s Kokunai program?

If you are considering whether or not to try the Kokunai program, then I say you should try it! Definitely if you want to go abroad – especially if you are considering going to the U.S!

This year, you are studying abroad at Michigan State University on the American Semester Program (ASP). Why did you decide to study abroad in Michigan?

I have just one answer for this question. My home university has a study abroad partnership with MSU. Of course, they have other partnerships with other countries’ universities, but I want to go to an English-speaking country.

What have been your first impressions of Michigan?

I just arrived from Japan, but I can say that MSU’s campus is very beautiful and peaceful. They have botanical gardens, an art museum, a traditional museum, and a large variety of trees and plants. For example: maple trees, oak tees, Rosaceae, Asteraceae, and more can be found on MSU’s campus. Some of the species I see can also be found in Japan, but there are many more that are not native to my home country.

Is there anything that surprised you?

Yeah, I can’t talk to everyone!

Did participating in JCMU’s Kokunai program help you prepare for studying in Michigan?

Yes. As I have described previously, it helped me become acquainted with American life. Additionally, I have a lot of friends in the U.S.near MSU already – it is so reassuring.

What would you say to other Japanese students considering studying abroad in Michigan?

If you study abroad, there will be a lot of everyday problems.  Sometimes, it will be about your studies but other times it will be about friends or other cultural concerns. There will be times where you think “where am I going now?”.  But I believe that all of these things, both good and bad, are excellent experiences for oneself. Of course, since the program began, I have been doing my best!












そのプログラムは、日本の学生が日本国内にいながらまるで海外に留学したような体験ができるプログラムでした。アメリカからの留学生し かいない環境で、一緒に住みながら二週間ほど英語のみで生活する体験ができるというものでした。私は多くのアメリカ在住の友人ができたし、そのことがアメ リカ留学に至った原因の一つといっても過言ではありません。当時私は関西の大学生ではなかったため、父が見つけてきました。しかしもともと、私たち家族 は、私の大学(Tokyo University of Agriculture) にMSUとの留学協定があることは知っていました。だから特に注目しました。




アメリカの学生さんと同じ寮で暮らすプログラムがとても印象的です。私は そこでアメリカの寮生活ではどのように過ごすものなのかをざっくり学びました。その経験は今の私のMSUでの寮生活においてとても使える経験ばかりでし た。そして私はとてもラッキーなことにJCMUで最高のルームメイトと知り合えました。






た だ遠かったです!しかしMSUは本当にきれいなキャンパスを持っています。そして植物園や美術館、博物館、多くの種の木々や植物がいます。例えばカエデの 仲間やカシの木の仲間、バラ科やキク科の仲間もおおくいます。あるものは日本でも見られる種類ですが、あるものは日本にはいない植物もいるので楽しいで す。






もし留学をするなら、そこには毎日何か問題がつきものです。時にそれは勉強のことだったり、友達付き合 い、人付き合いのことだったり、『私は今何をしているのか、どこへ行くのか?』というものだったり。でもすべては(良いものも悪いものも)よい経験となっ てくれると、私は信じています。もちろん、私の滞在も始まったばかり、一生懸命頑張ります。

We would like to thank Kawakita-san for sharing her experiences with us. As any student who has studied abroad can tell you, studying in another country can be a lot of different things—fun, surprising, stressful, exciting—often all at once! Yet it is always life-changing and worth the effort. We wish Kawakita-san the best in her future travels and studies, and hope that you will be inspired by her story.

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