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Study Away Students Blogging Abroad

Exploring the Leatherback Sea Turtle Population in Costa Rica

Study Away students are currently studying in Costa Rica with MSU West Plains professor, Ana Estrella-Riollano.  During their time in Costa Rica, participants will be in contact with the environmental, scientific, and cultural characteristics of the region. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the ecology, environmental threats of the tropical regions, importance of water quality assessments, and agricultural sustainability. They will have the opportunity to learn about the ecology of the leatherback sea turtle (endangered species) during their Caribbean coast visit.

Throughout the program, students will partake in more than 15 hours of service learning while patrolling the beach monitoring sea turtle nesting activity.  They will develop a better understanding of the population trends and the anthropological impacts in marine environments. All data collected during these patrols will be used by researchers to improve leatherback conservation efforts in this region and around the world.

Check out the pictures they’ve shared with us!  Visit our webpage today to start your Study Away adventure today!

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Award for Excellence in Community Engagement in Study Away Programming: Melanie Dreyer-Lude

Melanie Dreyer-Lude

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A faculty member in the Theatre and Dance department, Melanie Dreyer-Lude has a long history in the theatre world. Her professional knowledge, academic focus and passion for cultural learning motivated Melanie to develop the program, Experiencing Uganda: Service Learning in Kampala and Gulu. In Melanie’s words, “There’s nothing that will teach you more about cultural difference than traveling to a place that is very different from your own.” In May 2016, Melanie traveled with students on a three-week cultural immersion program, where students lived in a culture that was, according to one of her students, “a polar opposite of our own.” Melanie prepared students with meetings to discuss readings on the history, politics and culture of Uganda, as well as an overview of the Ugandan locations of the program.

While in Uganda, students were challenged to be open-minded as they explored the similarities and differences of Ugandan and North American culture. The community engagement focus of the program centered on students’ engagement with residents of Kampala, as they incorporated an African fable into a play with the Ndere Culture Troupe. In addition, students volunteered at orphanages and primary school, swapped stories and ideas with students at Kyambogo University, navigated marketplaces, and visited historical landmarks. At each day’s end, Melanie facilitated conversations with topics including colonialism, refugees, unfamiliar norms, and different value systems. Journaling was a required assignment for students, so they could reflect individually on their experiences each day.

One student wrote, “Melanie was an integral part of this trip; Melanie’s exceptional leadership skills allowed students to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, their own capabilities, and expand their cultural competence. Being far from home in a new and unfamiliar country with laws, norms, and values very different from your own is an intimidating experience. Without Melanie’s guidance of our surroundings and learning, we would not have grown and obtained such vast awareness of Ugandan life.”

Melanie challenged students to adopt a global perspective as they assimilated back to the Missouri State community. Her students continue to engage in local or international service as they pursue graduate studies, or work in their communities as citizen dietitians.  Her Study Away program was a catalyst for teaching students about Ugandan culture, their own cultures, and how they interact with the world.

Congratulations, Melanie!

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Award for Excellence in Cultural Competence in Study Away Programming: Kent Ragan

Kent Ragan

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As Finance and General Business Department Head, Kent Ragan sets an example for FGB faculty as he leads short-term programs designed to increase cultural awareness. In addition to his leadership of the 2016 European program, Kent has led four domestic Study Away programs to New York City for College of Business students since 2009.

In May 2016, Kent directed the program, Business Practices and Culture – The U.K., France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Spain. With 13 students, Kent traveled to London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Madrid. In preparation for their program, students used the Geert Hofstede Cultural Compass Survey to highlight the many cultural differences students would encounter during their travels. Students compared and contrasted how their individual results related to the countries on the program, and it provided rich discussion about moving from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism. In addition to students’ cultural research, Kent prepared students by assigning research projects based on country characteristics, companies to be visited, and cultural icons of significance.

Students reported that their most valuable cultural learning was in the form of business culture. Kent’s Study Away program provided a unique opportunity to learn about business culture in Europe – an opportunity that students would not have been able to plan on their own. Kent planned six business visits where students, in professional attire, met and interacted with successful business professionals in the host countries. The business visits included Lloyd’s of London, presentations by a partner and her staff at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London, a presentation and reception hosted by two partners at Ernst and Young in Paris, and a presentation, VIP tour, and lunch hosted by the Director of Global Audit and his staff at Heineken Headquarters in Amsterdam.

In addition to the business visits, Kent planned cultural events for students as a means of understanding the culture of each country. Sites included: Buckingham Palace where some students captured video of Queen Elizabeth in her royal coach processing to open Parliament, Stonehenge, The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, Versailles, an Amsterdam canal cruise, Anne Frank House, Madrid’s Royal Palace, and Toledo.


Kent’s investment of time on behalf of students is a strong contribution to Missouri State’s Public Affairs Mission.   Congratulations, Kent!

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Karaoke In Japan

So, if you’re like me, when I was in America we didn’t have Japanese style karaoke places where I live. I always wondered what Karaoke would be like; would I get shy, would it be expensive, what songs would they have, could I drink, what food was available?

I will attempt to share what I have learned in the three months I have lived here regarding karaoke, because it turned out to be a really fun, and great bonding opportunity with friends!


It depends on where you go, what time of the day, and which day of the week you want to go sing your heart out. In Japan, the walls are pretty thin, so it’s not like you can just belt out Utada Hikaru whenever you want. Or maybe that’s just me. For those on a budget, during the week, and during the day is the best time to go. This is before people get off work and the rates increase for the night time singers. They charge by the hour, I think about 2-3 hours is a good amount of time. However, I’m sure if you have a coupon, the rates could get even lower. Each karaoke place may also offer 飲み放題(のみほうだい)nomihoudai or bottomless cup, all you can drink rates, a simple soda and ice cream bar, costumes, and food! I am sure there are some more amenities that are offered. I just don’t have the experience of going there yet.

For me personally, I like to go for about 3 hours with some friends, my favorite place offers a soda bar, 飲み放題 nomihoudai, and food. But we usually just choose the soda bar, and order a plate of food to share. If I want one drink I get it. I’m all for the cheapest possible option because I’m a college student!

For the first question I had in America, “Would I get shy?”. The answer is yes and no. At first, you may think you need to be the world’s next Mariah Carey. The reality is, you aren’t going there to be a superstar, you are going in order to have fun singing with friends. My first time, I was overwhelmed by just BEING in Japan so I didn’t sing that much. However, the second time I went out for karaoke, I just went with it, and had lots of fun. You won’t always be on key, or know the words, but neither will anybody else, so let yourself go and enjoy the experience! The best part is, I always look forward to singing at karaoke now.

“Is it expensive?” This is also a yes and no answer. It all really depends on the place you go, and what you want to do. For me, I would rather just go and have fun, I don’t really care about having fancy food or dressing up. I pay anywhere from $10-$20 every time I go, and that’s everyone paying for their share equally when I go to karaoke. If you get nomihoudai, from my experience when we accidentally got charged, it was about $40.

“What songs do they have?” EVERYTHING. They offer Korean, Japanese, Popular American Pop songs, and even some old stuff! I personally always sing some Disney, Utada, and a mix of whatever I’m trying to learn in Japanese. Karaoke can really help with your reading skills if you let it! So try some songs in Japanese!

“Can I drink? What food is available?” YES! You can drink as long as you’re 20 and over. Don’t drink if you’re underage, you can get in trouble. As far as food goes, there are lots of finger foods, ramen, pizza, fried foods, etc. Some places even offer nice desserts! I go to a place that has soda and ice cream included in the price, so we make melon soda floats all the time. The food has always been of edible quality too!

If you have any questions about karaoke, leave them in the comments, I’d be happy to answer!


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School Trip to Kanazawa Part 2

This is a photo heavy post, so get ready!

For this part of the trip, we were headed to Shirakawa-go Village. It is a world cultural heritage site. The wiki can explain in FAR more detail than I can, so definitely check it out! And possibly listen to this video as a narration of the blog post as well.


The time we visited couldn’t have been more perfect, as the sun slowly set over the horizon, it made for beautiful photos view o the scenery. I could have just stood for hours and taken photos and enjoyed the peace and quiet. But alas, I was on a culture trip, so we had to move along faster than I would have liked. It was just the right temperature here as well. Not to hot, not too cold. Fall in Japan really is one of the best seasons to visit.


The next stop was the Kenrokuen Garden. Which supposedly has perfect balance. I can believe it, as this was another location I would have liked to have spent more time in. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t believe a man made garden such as this exists. I will let the photos do the talking, as well as the video I posted above. I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but I wasn’t really listening to the tour guide at all, because I wanted to take in the park through my own eyes.


If you have any questions let me know! I would love to answer them in the comments!

Be Brave,


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School Trip to Kanazawa Part 1

Hello! Sorry It has been so long since I’ve posted! Finals came up really fast and took over.

Because I’ve left you guys hanging, I will queue up some posts and have them ready for everyone to read.

So, to begin, I’m going to link you guys to Wiki articles about the two areas I travelled to just to give you an idea geographically where they’re located. I currently live in Tokyo, so this was quite a bus ride. First, here are the Gifu and Kanazawa links. To be honest, before we left I thought these locations were a lot closer than they actually are. However the trip was enjoyable and the driver was perfect! We had a very energetic and “Genki” tour guide as well!

The first night, we left VERY early. I had to wake up at 4 and leave by 5:40am. Our tour bus didn’t leave till 7:30 am, however we all had to navigate Shinjuku Station! Which is one of, if not THE, biggest stations in the world. We all left, sleepy eyed, but really excited to see everything this trip had to offer. It helped that I sat with really chill people too, the trip wasn’t stressful at all.


The two elements I was most excited about were the history we were about to see, and the beauty of the Japanese countryside. We were set to be in the alps of Japan, and on the drive there we even got to see Fuji-san, or Mt. Fuji.


Studying something, and seeing it with your own eyes are very different things, as I keep repeating in my posts. Watching the scenery gradually change from metropolitan to farmland from the bus was comforting, as it reminded me of home. I hadn’t seen mountains in a while, in fact, since visiting my mother in Alaska. So when the mountains creeped up over the horizon, I was plastered to the window. They were snow capped due to the fast approaching winter season, and Mt. Fuji was beautiful. Most of the time they looked as if they were chiseled from a piece of driftwood, as the trees had brown and red hues similar to that of stained wood. We also got to see the sunrise and sunset from the bus, which lit the mountains on fire. It was beautiful.





There was plenty of time on the bus to sleep as well, and sleep I did. The ride had reclining seats, storage for bags and souvenirs, and cupholders. It was honestly better than the economy class on an airplane! Some of us had downloaded Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby the night before, so there was plenty to keep us busy. I didn’t end up playing, as the scenery was captivating.




Our bus tour’s first stop was Takayama! We stopped to enjoy some nice warm Ramen, which was delicious. It had the traditional long, thin noodles and tasted like heaven.


After that, we visited Hida-Takayama Town. There are streets there that were preserved from the Edo Period of Japan onward.  It’s referred to as “Little Kyoto in Hida”. We saw traditional shops and merchants, as well as huge cedar leaf balls hanging outside sake shops. These are called “Sake-bayashi” or “Sugi-tama”. They hang these when new sake is ready. It begins as a green ball of leaves, and as the leaves turn brown, this shows how aged the sake is to the customers outside.






























Here is a video if you’re interested in the area! I am working on a second part to this trip for a new post, so please look forward to it!

If you have any questions about the area, what we saw, or the photographs, shoot me a comment!

Be Brave,


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The Top of Tokyo Sky Tree: Meeting My Pen Pal For the First Time



That girl on the left above is my pen pal. I wrote my first letter to her 4 years ago. My Japanese was horrible, I could only use Hiragana and Katakana, my Kanji was illegible, and I could only say, “Hi, my name is Brittany, I’m in college.” I never imagined I would actually meet her in real life.

Now, my language skills are still subpar, but every day I can understand more, my world is opening up, and I’m meeting new people all the time. My pen pal and I made plans to meet at the Skytree train station. I was so nervous that day. I was sweaty, stuttering, and forgot nearly all the Japanese I learnt already. Then, all of the sudden, “Excuse me…” AHHH! It was her! My pen pal! Finally I had met her after all these years. Now, I know that this isn’t the custom, but I gave her a big American style hug! She had brought a friend along and I am so happy that I could meet more people. They are the nicest people I’ve ever met and I hope that the language barrier becomes smaller and smaller as I learn more and more. There were many times where we would walk in silence, just enjoying the moment until we warmed up to each other. I was so happy when we started talking!

First we walked around the various shops and made small English mixed with Japanese conversation. Their English is really good! They also taught me many things about Japanese as well. Plans were made to go into the Moomin Cafe, we waited an hour or so to get in, but we were waiting for our turn to go to the top of the Skytree, so it all worked out perfectly.

The cafe was warm, and we were greeted kindly. They helped me order so the waitress would be more comfortable, and then we got to take photos with silly hats!









Of course all the food was Moomin themed or shaped into Moomin Characters! It was so cute, and scrumptious! I highly recommend this cafe if you have any extra money. The dessert was pumpkin flavored and even though we were all really full, we ate every bit! Trying on the hat was fun, as was chatting about boyfriends, college, etc. even if I could only say things in broken Japanese. I’m pretty sure when they asked when my birthday was I said、「20月」which means 20th month! We all had a good laugh about that.







I took so many photos and video, but I want to cherish it for myself, I hope you understand! So for now, just have these various iPhone snaps we took throughout the day, as well as my video about Tokyo Skytree. Thank you for listening, and I encourage everyone who lives in Tokyo to visit Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, or a tall building to see the view of Tokyo for themselves. It really puts into perspective the city you live in. You are part of a community as a foreigner, even if you don’t feel like it or see it all the time. It really hit me at the top of Tokyo Skytree that I was in Japan, meeting people that I feel like I’ve known forever. The tears were definitely under the surface and I constantly had to swallow the lump in my throat as I looked out over the horizon and watched the sun set. I think I said thank you a million times that day. I will never forget meeting her for the first time at Tokyo Skytree, and now this place will hold a happy memory for me every time I visit, or see it in the distance in Tokyo. Thanks to my new friends for a beautiful day, and a relaxing train ride home. I will never forget it.

Thanks for reading and listening. If you have any questions, as always, stop by the Study Away office and tell them Brittany from Japan sent you!

Be Brave,



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KCP International School BBQ!


Hey everyone!

In light of MSU’s International Education Week, I will try and post a few times on this blog to help show you an international student’s current point of view from Japan!

Recently my school held a school wide barbecue! That means faculty and students worked side by side to cook food, play games, and have a good time. It was a lot of fun.

We started off by meeting really early in the morning on a Friday, something many students may not have wanted to do, but it was so worth it. We all took the train to a park and BBQ’d at their specific area dedicated to cooking. Earlier in the week we had to work as a class (none of whom have English as their first language) and buy ingredients. It was a challenge, but fun! I really got to know the personalities of my classmates. I think that was part of the exercise too. It was my job to marinate the chicken for the American food portion of the menu, and bring tableware.

We burned some chicken, dropped some food on the ground, and maybe started a few fires, but it was fun!













At the end of the day, we all turned into children and played in the park. I was exhausted when I got home, but it was worth it and I slept really well! I hope you guys enjoy the photo and videos. It was a really good bonding experience with my classmates, and staff. The teachers were all very energetic and spoke to us in Japanese. It is really good practice, and helps you form a bond with your teachers that translates well into the classroom dynamic! I helped grill the chicken, but we found out one of the members of our group helps her family cook. She was more than willing to step in and it was awesome to collaborate!

If you decide to come to KCP, you will definitely feel right at home! We all contributed food items from our own countries and participated in a cooking contest. Our class didn’t win, but we had lots of fun working together and participating in some games. I really encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone, you never know what you’ll experience! Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about attending KCP feel free to swing by your advisors office or the Study Away offices. They are really helpful, and they are part of the reason why I am in Japan today!

Be Brave,


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National Diet Building, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Buddhist Temple, and Asakusa Tour


Get ready for a long post!

Every weekend that I have a culture class trip, I am surprised by what we are shown. As you’ll see from the photographs and video, Asakusa is very much where old meets new. The political hub of Tokyo is right next to an Edo period castle and the Imperial Palace. We weren’t able to go to where the main buildings are, but we saw the gates, and the moat surrounding the vast area housing the Imperial Palace. As it is said in the video, there used to be two large moats surrounding this castle, but the one furthest from the center was filled in. As you can see, I was pretty psyched to see all of this up close, as was the group! If you go to MSU, you can earn credit by attending the lecture beforehand, and writing a paper on your experience in English.


If I need to be perfectly honest, watching the video play back and post these photos brings some tears to my eyes because I’m constantly reminded how much my hard work at university has paid off. Every time I see something new, or something that I have only heard about or seen pictures of before, I get really overwhelmed with gratitude. Especially for the Gilman Scholarship which I am so grateful to have received.

This area was a really popular place for joggers, and there was even a marathon taking place as we walked through the beautiful scenery. I really enjoyed a break from the bustling city life I experience during the week with my classes, and liked just strolling along looking at all the interestingly shaped trees and of course capturing some 木漏れ日(komorebi). Or the light that filters through trees. Everything we discussed in the lecture, and the pre-departure meeting, we got to see and experience hands on!






Seeing the wide open spaces within a city was refreshing, and the air smelled really nice amongst the trees. There were many people enjoying the lovely warm air that day.

From this statue, we took the metro train and traveled Sensoji Shrine. It’s a Buddhist shrine, and I had studied Buddhism and Japanese religion in the states so I was very excited! I did my videos in two parts because the shrine was too beautiful and I wanted to show you guys everything! (Note: I posted the wrong shrine in the opening title of the video. It’s actually Sensoji Shrine)


























The smells were of incense and smoke, food and excitement. The sounds were old music, and coins clanging as they were dropped into the donation area and prayed over. I caught many people in sincere worship, and it was an interesting thing to see and secretly capture. Can you see when I find them in the video? One couple was sincerely holding incense and praying, and another, praying and wishing over a donation.

Of course no trip to a temple is complete without a fortune! I got a bad fortune, but I kept it as a souvenir! Is that bad luck? Of course, but my new friend I’ve made through KCP tied hers up in traditional Japanese fashion so it would be blown away. I enjoyed walking around and asking things in Japanese for practice. It’s insane how fast you pick up Japanese, not just at KCP, but just constantly being surrounded by it, makes a world of difference! I highly recommend attending KCP if you are willing to work hard and improve your Japanese Language proficiency.

Lastly, we spent a calm evening by the water, and viewed Tokyo Skytree, Asahi Beer Building, and the fire spirit building! I hope you watch the video and feel the same feelings of peace that I felt. It felt very surreal.

I want these videos show you just how beautiful this place really is, and inspires you to visit one day! I want to go back and sit, enjoy the sounds, and have some food next time.

Thanks for listening! And as always, if you have any questions, stop by the study away office at MSU and tell them Brittany sent you, or leave them in the comments!



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KCP Japanese Language School! Trip to Meiji Jingu Shrine and Takeshita Dori.

Hello! It’s nice to meet everyone! My name is Brittany and I am going to KCP International Language School through Missouri State University for Japanese Language and Culture Credit. I have an Individualized Major in Japanese Language and TESOL. I will be in Tokyo, Japan from October 6th – June 20th 2015. I hope I can share my adventures with you!

To start things off, our first culture trip was to Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori street! Let me share some photos from each location!


There were many traditional weddings taking place that day.

Entrance to the shrine.IMG_1465

Wine offerings.IMG_1460

Peaceful streams and forests.IMG_1457 IMG_1453

Torii Gate.IMG_1485

Ema Votive Tablets. Write your wishes to the gods!IMG_1486 IMG_1492 IMG_1495 IMG_1497



Takeshita Dori!
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Purikura (Picture Club; photo booths)IMG_1529

Crepes.IMG_1531 IMG_1535

Colorful Graffiti!


We went to Meiji Jingu Shrine. It’s one thing to study this in your classroom in America and see photos. Its a totally different thing to actually be there. We stepped off the train and walked to Harajuku. The Shrine is just a short walk from there. Everyone had their cameras out before we even saw it.

This shrine is a peaceful oasis in the midst of a booming, modern fashion district. While at the shrine, the dull roar of the city melted away as we walked on the long gravely path to the shrine’s entrance. I remembered what I had studied in America, how this shrine houses the largest wooden Torii gate in Japan. Seeing it in person was outstanding. It was so beautiful. We all walked to the left, bowed, and then began our walk to the shrine. I’ll let the video do most of the talking here, as I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. Keep an eye out for things you’ll learn in Dr. Berkwitz’s Chinese and Japanese Religion class. I was able to appreciate the shrine more because of what I learned in his class.

Remember that album in the 90’s from Gwen Stephani? “Harajuku girls you’ve got some wicked style….”. I was just a wee lass when that had come out, but ever since then, I’ve been curious as to what she was talking about. Saturday October 11, 2014 I found out. Our school took a culture class trip to Harajuku and Takeshita Dori street (sounds like kindergarten, but we are all 19-30 ish). I nearly cried when I saw it. You see photos of it in magazines, and videos of the endless outfits and fashion, seeing it in person however is an entirely different story. I don’t think I put my camera away the entire time we were there. I’m such a girl.

The whole street was colored with the rainbow, and peppered with girls and guys dressed in clothes that expressed themselves. I felt like, in a country that prides itself in how conservative it is, and how orderly and clean things are, this area is an oasis for young people searching for their voice. Imagine a mall that’s outside in your home country. For me, in America, we have closed malls for the most part. Big buildings, with lots of shops and kiosks. Takeshita Dori has open shops, shop girls yelling about their latest clothes, and discounts, and food. Head inside a small door, you could find yourself in a big shop. Head into a basement full of purikura machines, and you’ll find young couples, girlfriends, sometimes boyfriends cramming themselves into purikura booths to make memories. And you’ll most definitely always see somebody dressed in a way you want to dress.

Before we went to Harajuku, I told my new friends that even if I didn’t have money and we didn’t do anything else, we HAD to do purikura together. Its a rite of passage! I feel like no friendship is real until you take photobooth photos together! 2 of the 3 girls had never done it before, one of those three being me. So we paid our 400 yen, took some goofy photos, and then drew silly photos and put stickers on them. We all got copies, and I felt so happy I could cry. When you work really hard for something, and your dream finally comes true, it’s very overwhelming.

I hope you feel the happy energy from my video, and it makes you smile! I want everyone to have this experience sometime in their lives.

Thoughts? Let me know!


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