To celebrate the diversity of our JCMU community, we are featuring stories from students and alumni that self-identify as a person of color. If you have your own story you would like to tell for this campaign, then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello, my name is DaJanea McBryde. I went to JCMU in 2007 as a May short program and a Summer Intensive Language student (where I completed level 3). My time in Hikone was very positive. I always tell everyone that the 3 months I spent in Japan changed me as a person for the better.
I first heard about JCMU from my high school Japanese teacher. She studied there when she was in college in the 90s. Then when I went to Eastern Michigan University, and everyone in all of my Japanese classes were either talking about going or had already went. At the time, I was an International Business major and one of the requirements of the major was to do a study aboard, so it just made sense to go to Japan.
There were other black students at the school the same time I was there and I never felt unwelcome or out of place. I made a lot of life long friends who I talk to to this day.
When traveling around the country, I was definitely stared at by the Japanese people. But I never felt unsafe or threatened. I just figured it was because I was probably the first black person any of them had ever seen in person. Also, on the train, older people would move seats if I sat next to them but younger people would sit next to me and sometime talk to me (usually in English because they wanted to practice). However, my white friends also experienced this as well. Honestly, Japan is probably the only place I’ve traveled to where I felt completely safe to go out on my own.
My most interesting experience being a black person in Japan was when we did the elementary school visit. The kids were so amazing and so excited to meet us. During the free time when we got to play with the children, one of the children asked my friend who is also black, if his skin color rubbed off! Children (these were 1st and 2nd graders) at that age are so innocent and honest we weren’t offended by the question. It actually made us laugh.
To other minority students: one of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to step outside your comfort zone. You may be the only one of your “kind” in Japan but in my experience, you learn so much about yourself by living in another country. I was very insecure and shy before I went to Japan but I knew that if I really wanted to get the most out of my time there, I had to be more open and put myself out there. When I look back on my time in Hikone, I always look at myself as who I was before I went and who I am today and I am a much more confident woman now thanks to JCMU.