By Emily Klingman
Taking a semester away from Rider, Luke Sharpkes spent his fall semester abroad, traversing the exotic and diverse country of Japan.
Sharples, a junior global studies major, spent the fall semester immersing himself in the culture of Japan at Ritsumeikan Asian Pacific University (APU) located on the southern island of Kyushu.
“I had always wanted to visit Asia at some point,” he said. “I’m originally from the U.K., and I could have decided to go there and pick the easy option, but I decided to go with something a bit more difficult and outside of my comfort zone.”
Some of the courses he took were classes in Japanese and Asian culture, politics, and even a course on tea ceremonies.
These classes are typical of students who spend a semester in Japan.
“When students study abroad in Japan they can take intensive Japanese language classes and leave Japan feeling confident in their new language skills,” said Kim Cameron, assistant director of the Center for International Education. “Students can study in the heart of Tokyo and experience all the country has to offer.”
APU’s student body was a mix of both international students and students native to the country, which appealed to him. One of his favorite parts of the trip was meeting so many different people.
“I think I’ve met people from literally every single continent now,” he said.
The hardest adjustment that he had to make was getting comfortable with the language barrier.
“I wasn’t surrounded by my native language,” he said. “I had to get used to the idea that I couldn’t read the street signs, that I couldn’t converse with people easily.”
The one life lesson he took away from his study abroad experience was on a card from his mother before he left.
“She wasn’t able to see me off, but she left me a card to read, which read, ‘Do the thing you think you cannot do,’” Sharples said. “That was something I tried to take to heart while I was over there and when I got back.”
While abroad, it seemed this lesson stuck with him, as he and his friends took a spontaneous week-long trip to Tokyo. Also, he became involved in multiple clubs, including kickboxing and aikido.
“I’ve practiced martial arts for a few years, so I wanted to try it in the country famous for it,” he said. “I competed in an amature kickboxing competition, but unfortunately lost. Still, it was definitely worth-while to just to say I had done it.”
From Tokyo to competitions, Sharples took full advanage of his mother’s advice and the opportunities he had in Japan.
“The entire thing that will stick with me for the rest of my life,” Sharples said. “It was an amazing opportunity that not many are given and even fewer follow through on.”
By Emily Klingman