By Alexx Thompson
Visiting the NAFSA conference this year really was a very eye-opening experience for me. NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. The NAFSA Annual Conference is a unique forum of attendees from many professional and geographic perspectives and backgrounds. It’s a large convention where you can interact with international businesses and colleges as well as gain information about the programs they offer. Five Japanese Plus students were the special guests of the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ) and NAFSA, along with other high school students from Maryland and Virginia.
When we first arrived at the hotel, on May 30, we were with the other students studying Japanese, and were introduced to the people behind the event. Getting to talk to them, as well as meeting the other students was really helpful for me to learn about what my next steps should be in going forward. Then we were led to the convention hall, where cute sakura trees surrounded the Japanese booths. There were many Japanese universities there and they were all really nice and willing to share their programs with us. Being introduced to more universities was very helpful for me, as I want to go to a Japanese university straight out of high school. I also got a chance to practice my Japanese with the people at each booth and I was really surprised to be able to understand the Japanese they spoke back to me. The only problem was sometimes I stumbled a bit and couldn’t format the sentences right in my head, so I said a few English sentences because I got nervous. Especially since I don’t really know much about college in English, so being able to understand the programs they offered in Japanese was very cool to me.
I also had the amazing opportunity to meet the vice president of Sophia University in Japan, and she was really sweet and wonderful. I really enjoyed talking to her and I’m really interested in applying to Sophia in the future. I want to be a translator as well as a polyglot, and immersion has always been the best tool for me.
Since the conference was an international one, it also brought my attention to studying abroad in other countries. I was really interested in the Korean universities, as I’m currently self-studying Korean, but I didn’t feel confident enough to talk to any of the representatives. I thought it really was amazing how I could go to so many colleges around the world. Not to mention programs I’d only seen online were there as well. I was able to talk with representatives from AFS, as I plan to study abroad in my senior year, and live in Japan for a semester or a year. It was really beneficial and was really cool to be able to see how many options I had. I loved the event and I really hope to go again if I ever have the chance.