Venturing far from home: international edition

Nagisa Takayanagi is an international student from Tokyo, Japan. She is a junior majoring in International Studies and has plans to stay in America after her two years here. Takayanagi loves to listen to music, especially R&B. So far, she has enjoyed her first week at Virginia Wesleyan University and intends to expand her horizons to make new friends here. 

As assumed by many, coming to a new country and going to school is no easy task. Despite this, with prior knowledge of American culture and her fluency in the English language, Takayanagi has successfully made the transition to VWU. The ease of her transition can be largely attributed to the fact that she is not the only Japanese transfer student. Takayanagi can typically be found around campus with other international students as well, something that has boded well for her here. 

“It was very good to have other Japanese students already here because I didn’t know what to bring from Japan or what I should do to prepare,” Takayanagi said. “It was a good thing, and they’re so helpful and they know so much. They [were able to show me] some information and take me to tour the campus.” Takayanagi also expressed interest in getting to know the VWU community and expanding her horizons.

As a college student in America, Takayanagi has enjoyed her experience enough to consider coming back. She has even made plans to travel to Seattle, Washington. 

“I am going here for two years and will graduate from here. I also like to travel a lot in the United States. My little sister is coming to Seattle in a couple of weeks, so I think, during spring break, I’ll go to see her,” Takayanagi said. 

Considering all of this, Takayanagi has faced some struggles since leaving Japan less than two weeks ago. The language barrier has been one of her biggest struggles. 

“In Japan, when you start at junior high school, you start to learn English, but speaking English was so different there, so I could still communicate with them. I feel that speaking English here is harder,” Takayanagi said. 

The contrast in language and culture became apparent to Takayanagi right away, however, she is now prepared for any barrier in language that arises. The journey for Takayanagi hasn’t been smooth sailing so far, but she is determined to accomplish her goals in the VWU community.

Along with Takayanagi, Isabel Schoenmakers is also an international student here at VWU. Schoenmakers is a junior from the Netherlands and is studying Communication and Psychology, however, in the Netherlands, her major is Human Resource Studies and People Management. Schoenmakers plays a little bit of piano and has even considered taking classes here. She also enjoys hanging out with friends. So far in her short time at Virginia Wesleyan University, she has been playing on the Field Hockey team and has enjoyed her experience with them.

Coming to America as an exchange student is no easy challenge, but, in her limited time here, Schoenmakers has embraced this difficult mountain to climb. Right away, she noticed the difference between the Netherlands and America. 

“I would say it’s very different. I think this school has way more of a spirit and way more sports than my school. [My school doesn’t] have sports teams, so that’s really different. Also, you can live on campus at my school, so that’s also a really big difference,” Schoenmakers said.

In many ways, this change has proven beneficial for Shoenmakers as she praised the school’s inclusive nature and petite atmosphere. 

“I really like how this school is so focused on the students and you’re not just a number here because it’s so small. In the Netherlands, there are a lot of students and you are more like a number,” Schoenmakers said. This positive change in the surrounding atmosphere is quality news for future international students looking to come to Virginia Wesleyan University. 

As Schoenmakers is slowly adapting to her new university, she is looking forward to competing with the Field Hockey team. 

“I just had one training session, so I don’t have a lot to say, but I really liked it,” Schoenmakers said. “It’s the offseason right now, so it’s not the competition season, which is kind of a pity but we still get to do some matches later this semester. I would have loved to play the whole competition.” 

Field Hockey has definitely been one of her highest aspirations this semester, which has balanced some of the difference for her in America. Schoenmakers hopes to come back to America after she leaves VWU. 

Takayanagi and Shoenmakers are both still adapting to American life here at VWU, but look forward to what the rest of their time here has to offer.

Josh Heller