One on One with KCP Alumnus Abigail Dunn, Part 2

KCP’s Academic Year 2016 student, Abigail Dunn, shares more of her insights on her experience in Japan with KCP. Read Part 1 here.

So now you’re studying the language you’ve loved since you were 11 and you have an opportunity to visit the country with a native speaker.

Abigail: Another huge, huge step for me. I had never been out of the country before. I had never flown alone before. This was a huge deal for me to do this on my own. I was terrified! But I did it. I was 17.

Looking back, I still don’t know how I did that!

What was it like when you landed in Japan for the first time?

Abigail: I landed, I was sleep-deprived, and I had only had one year of Japanese so I might be able to pick out a word like “bathroom” or “where is” something, but I had no idea what I was doing. I went through customs. They asked me questions and I didn’t know where I was staying and they said, “that’s not good.” They took a picture of my face, looked at my passport, and then I waited for over an hour for my friend’s family. I wasn’t even sure if I would recognize them. Eventually they showed up, and it was interesting because my friend’s younger brother knew a lot of English and was able to translate for his parents. I was only able to understand or speak very simple sentences with her parents.

Her family lived in the south of Japan. It’s not like a city vibe where they live. It had a small-town feel. I was there for five weeks and attended high school there for two weeks. Her dad is a university chaplain and he got me into a high school that was affiliated with the university and I started school the next day.

The high school classes (in Japan), especially the English class, was all about grammar, reading and writing, but because I was there, the teacher called on me a lot to help, which was great.

My friend and I also spent two weeks traveling on our own around the country. Again, I’m way out of my comfort zone but I was so in love with the country.

(When Abigail returned to the States, she said she felt inspired from her travels and shared her experiences with her peers in class.)

Abigail: I was definitely ahead of the game. I came back with better listening skills. Definitely improved my overall language learning.

What attracted you to Western Washington University?

Abigail: I thought I was going to take a gap year, but I realized that if I didn’t go on to college, I wouldn’t be able to continue my Japanese learning because I had already maxed out the offerings available to me. My dad encouraged me to check out some colleges, but I really hadn’t planned on even going to college. I only did it to further my Japanese. I had no interest in it otherwise. I agreed to check out Western because I had heard it had a good Japanese program.

I then met with Massimiliano Tomasi, (East Asian Studies Program Director and Professor of Japanese at Western Washington University) who is to-date, my favorite professor ever. I asked him if it would be OK if we sit in on a Japanese class. I sat in on Level 2, which was my year at the time. I really enjoyed it and then we had a talk about why I wanted to learn. He said, “You’re a little bit late to the game to be registering for fall, but I will do everything in my power to get you into this school because I can see your passion, I see that you’re dedicated, I want you to succeed here so apply.”

I applied that same day!

Stay tuned for more from Abigail Dunn!