Haruka Kikuchi, a journalism major at the University of Washington, was born and raised in Japan for the first 18 years of her life. She knew she wanted to learn about media by the time she graduated high school, and after some research she found media studies to be more advanced in the US than in Japan. When she made the decision to study internationally, she had never studied abroad or been to America, let alone knew anybody there. Now at 22, she recalls the anxiety and excitement she felt her first day.
The first person she talked to after she flew into Seattle was her host family and the first thing she did was go to AT&T and get a new phone. Even though she didn’t think she was homesick at the time, looking back she realizes that she was, “I called my mom almost every day.” Luckily, she didn’t have much time to feel nervous since she started school at Shoreline Community College the day after her arrival. After four years and transferring to the UW, she still remembers being struck by the cultural differences she encountered here, like the amount of diversity, straightforwardness, and friendliness in the US.
"So, my name is Haruka, I’m 22 years old. I’m majoring in journalism at University of Washington. I’m originally from Japan, I was born and raised there, then after that I came to the US.
"Diversity is totally different, like, my surrounding people in Japan was completely only Japanese people, like 99 percent almost. But here, like I said, some people are from Asia, some people are from Mexico, like, so many people are here… so I think that’s the biggest difference.
"Japanese people don’t really tell their emotions or opinions in a direct way but American people do, like they… (laughs) they are really honest about what they feel and what they think so that was really, yeah, that [was] completely different and sometimes makes me upset, but yeah I got used to it.
"Also, I thought American people were really friendly at the same time cause Japanese people are like… its not not friendly, but they try to keep a distance from strangers so… yeah, but yeah, American people are really close to each other even though they don’t really know each other. Yeah, that’s… that was really interesting when I got here."