Study abroad storyteller: Kitchen friends and language immersion in Nagoya, Japan

Author: Ellie Hammerschmitt

The Study Abroad Storytellers program is an opportunity for current study abroad students to share their stories with prospective study abroad students. Though they may come from different backgrounds, colleges, and majors, they all share an enthusiasm to grow academically and personally from this life-changing experience.

In this story, Ellie Hammerschmitt ‘24, a science business major, writes about her experience studying abroad in Nagoya, Japan and why it is undoubtedly "the best program [she] could have chosen."

Night Cherry Blossom Festival2

Night Cherry Blossom Festival

Choosing where to study abroad is a huge deal for many Notre Dame students. Programs such as London and Dublin have people flocking, making the acceptance into the program incredibly competitive. I believe, however, that people are missing out on an opportunity by overlooking the Japanese Nagoya program. I can truly say that I have been challenged both mentally and intellectually and have grown more than I ever thought possible. Previously (without a doubt!) a dependent, I have come so far in my independence. In many ways, I have been forced to step out of my comfort zone and try new experiences. 

In this program, I am studying intensive Japanese with a sprinkling of Japanese culture courses throughout the week. The program was initially daunting, taking place 4 days a week for over 3 hours per day, but I can say that I had no idea that my language acquisition over such a short period of time could be so great. In this program, we had the option of choosing to stay with a family or in a mixed dormitory with both Japanese students and international students. Choosing the latter, I have had the privilege of living directly alongside many other Japanese students and growing to be good friends with them.

In our specific dormitory, around 10 students are assigned to share one kitchen, thus birthing my commonly used phrase “my kitchen friends.” Spending time with my kitchen friends has truly been one of the highlights of my experience here. With these girls, half of them Japanese and the other half international students, I have learned so much about both the Japanese language and the Japanese culture. Whether it is Emi teaching me how to make Nikujaga (肉じゃが), a Japanese meat and potato dish that we love, or going to see Japanese cherry blossoms (桜) in a traditional Hanami (花見) format, I have loved becoming great friends with these Japanese and international students.

Ultimately, this program has been the best fit for me because it has forced me out of my comfort zone. I have been given every opportunity to thrive in the Japanese language, both in daily life and academically, and I can say without hesitation that this was the best program I could have chosen.

Learn more about the SA Storytellers program. 

Learn more about the Study Abroad Storytellers program.