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Study Abroad
Western Michigan
University

1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, Michigan
49008-5245 USA
Phone (269) 387-5890
Fax (269) 387-0630

Location

2425 Ellsworth Hall
WMU Mail Stop 5245

David Weber--Japan

David Weber in Japan

David Weber

Study Abroad Destination
Nagoya, Japan
Spring & Summer 2005

From January to October 2005, I spent my time working at the World’s Fair in Nagoya Japan.  This was a study abroad program I participated in as a Western Michigan University student working with the Japan Center for Michigan Universities. The first three months of the program were spent studying at JCMU for the upcoming job as a Guide at the US Pavilion in Nagoya.  This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and thanks to the study abroad program I was able to remain in school, gaining credits while gaining practical real world experience in another country.

David Weber in Japan
Standing in-front of the expo site in Feb. 2005

While studying at JCMU I had the opportunity every Tuesday and Thursday to embark on cultural training where we went to a historical site within Hikone (the city I lived in) and received tours, in Japanese, from professional tour guides.  My job at the US Pavilion was to be a tour guide so these trainings were specially formatted for all of the American Guides (30 total) to pick up on the cultural nuances of giving tours in Japan.  We visited the famous city of Nagahama, Where in the oldest, most well known glass blowing factory exists, Hikone Jyou: Japan’s 4th national treasure (one of the oldest castles in the country), and the Biwako Museam: a museum dedicated to the life in and around Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan.  

The most famous street in Nagahama
The most famous street in Nagahama. In the late 1800’s when families were required to make their yearly trip to Tokyo in order to pay taxes this is the street they walked down. Today there are many festivals which proceed down these streets honoring those who made the long journey.
 

After my study in Hikone I moved to Nagoya where I began work at the US Pavilion along with 29 other guides who were also college students like myself and 6 mentor guides, who had graduated previously.  Our job was to serve as announcers, entertainers, tour guides, VIP greeters, etc for the average 13,000 daily visitors to enter our pavilion.  Over the course of 6 moths we brought more that 2 million visitors through the US Pavilion which included a pre-show on Benjamin Franklin, a main show on renewable energy resources, and a post show gallery including live images from Mars and Saturn, a 2 millions dollar hydrogen fuel cell concept car from GM and a real life model of the Mars rover.  It was an extremely impressive pavilion with lots to see and even more for us guides to discuss (in Japanese) with the general public.

Overall I enjoyed the program immensely.  Not only did I get 18 credits over the course of 9 months, but I had a chance to delve even more deeply into a culture which for most American’s seems far from our way of thinking.  Studying abroad is one of the single most important activities that a college student can take part in.  I recommend to everyone in college that they use the resources provided to them by the University to study abroad before it’s too late.  Most people say they wish to travel, but few actually do it.  I’ve been traveling for the past 10 years of my life and I’m not going to stop now.