International Student Spotlight
Shota Tanaka shares his story about why he chose to study in the U.S. and how he got used to his new college environment.
Name: Shota Tanaka
Home country: Japan
University/College: Springfield College
Major: Athletic Training
Career aspirations: Athletic Trainer / Paramedic / Sushi Chef
Graduation year: 2016
What made you want to study at a U.S. university?
It is no exaggeration to say that spending my high school years in Switzerland motivated me to study at a non-Japanese university. This is because I realized English is the essential skill. Moreover, I believe the U.S. is the best quality for studying sports and medical subjects. Since my major is Athletic Training and I am trying to get a Paramedic license as well, the U.S. is the best choice to study for my field.
What types of things did you do in high school to prepare yourself for attending university?
My high school, a Japanese boarding school, was really unique, and was located in the Alps in Switzerland. First of all, most classes were held in English so that was the most important preparation for college in terms of getting used to taking classes in English. Due to the fact that I want to become an AT, I played different kinds of sports, which helped me to get a Best Athlete award. This is because I thought it was important to understand body movement in many sports. Moreover, I experienced summer school at Michigan University for five weeks right after 11th grade. This experience made me realize Athletic Training was what I really want to do in my future. Also, I participated in humanitarian volunteer work in Zambia. In fact, we raised money by ourselves and went to Zambia for about two weeks in order to help build a school. In addition to learning a lot about myself and the world, it made my college application stronger and prepared me for the strong spirit of volunteerism at Springfield College.
How did you decide which universities and colleges to apply to?
I really dreamed to live in Boston since I visited there when I was in 9th grade. The atmosphere was so good. Since MA is the oldest, global, and best known for higher education, I looked at all universities in MA that have an Athletic Training major, and are CAATE accredited. As I visited Springfield College after 11th grade, I was quite impressed by the sports facilities there. In fact, Springfield College is the birthplace of basketball, so it is great school for studying in the sports-related fields. This is why I chose this school.
How was it adjusting to a new country and university environment?
I did not have any problem with adjusting to this country. It is common to hear about struggling with roommates or dorm living, but I have spent the past seven years in a dorm. My roommate and I are getting along very well. Also, I am used to going to other countries because I went to a Japanese boarding school in Switzerland; however, I still struggle with English, especially slang. The only way to learn slang is to talk with people, so I tried to talk with my roommate a lot and ask when I did not understand.
What do you appreciate most about studying at a U.S. university?
The university not only wants you to learn from class, but also they want you to learn from your environment. Most U.S. universities require you to live in a dorm for several years. In my case, we must live on campus at least three years. This is really enough time to learn how to cooperate with others. “Respect others”- this phrase was used in my high school. Without “respect others” in dorm life, there is no way to cooperate with others. Therefore, studying at a U.S. university is not only a chance to focus on studying, but also dorm life teaches the basic skills most highly sought after by society.
What do you find most challenging about studying at a U.S. university?
Terminology and slang are the most challenging for me to learn. In my field especially, we use a lot of medical words, which I do not even know in Japanese. Remembering names of muscles, bones, organs, injuries, and diseases has been most challenging so far. Once I remember all of them, I mostly understand what my professor says. Nevertheless, at the beginning of this year, I had struggled with what the professor is talking about. It was totally another language.
What is your most memorable moment of studying and living in the U.S. so far?
While I was observing at a hospital, one of the EMT class requirements, I witnessed a patient having a heart attack and observed his recovery. That was quite impressive. This opportunity to observe ER does not happen in other counties in this early time of college life. I guess the U.S. is well developed in medical fields due to the fact that students grow up in this great clinical environment.
What advice would you give to students in other countries wanting to study in the U.S.?
Studying in another country is very challenging for all international students. You might face many struggles, such as cultural, communication, study and so on. However, many people around you are going to help. There are so many chances to have a great experience, which you may not experience if you never leave your home country. The U.S. is the best place to study and would be your first step to achieve your dream!