Japan: Where dreams become reality

Jamie Lloyd, Staff

There are places in this world where nature imitates art. There are places where lifelong dreams come true. There are even places you visit as a stranger and leave as a member of an unspoken family.

And then there’s Japan.

For many University of New Orleans students, Japan has all the perks of an ideal cultural experience: a rich blending of nature, modernization and traditional aspects, with a touch of exoticism.

This past summer, over the course of five weeks, 25 students from across the country had the opportunity to experience the enchanting beauty of Japan through studying abroad with UNO. Whether it was making international friends through the Tomodachi Program, exploring the many diverse and ancient landscapes of Japan, or even earning college credit, it is clear the UNO-Japan program has something to offer everyone.

For Nigel Copeland, a junior majoring in film and also a recent UNO-Japan program ambassador, the trip could not have come at a more perfect time. “Since I was younger—third grade—I’ve been really curious and fascinated with Asian cultures. Japan is one of the Asian cultures I’ve been really fascinated with for a long time.”

Copeland did some soul-searching during the spring semester before figuring out that studying abroad was a good fit. “I wanted something that really cemented my college experience as something that was valuable,” he said. “I wanted to take something more than just a degree from UNO.”

After being inspired to study abroad by friends who had recently traveled to Europe, Copeland began doing some research when he saw signs around UNO advertising the many study abroad programs the university offers.

“When I saw Japan listed as the only Asian country you could travel to, I instantly gravitated to that choice because I’ve been fascinated [for] so long with Asian cultures.”

“It seemed like the natural choice for me. I had never even left the country before. Sometimes you’ve got to run before you can walk!” Copeland said. “I decided to go as far as I could to a place that I’ve always dreamed of going. I didn’t look back.”

Copeland said his trip would not have been as fulfilling if it weren’t for the Ambassador Award he received from UNO, a scholarship which assists students financially to study abroad and represent their chosen program.

“The Ambassador Award not only gave me a really big break in resources, but it was also a chance to represent the program, which is something I was actually really interested in doing,” Copeland said. “Without that award, I do not think it would have been possible for me to actually go to Japan.”

Copeland pointed out that it was the connections he made on this program that made his journey a life-changing experience. “The opportunity to have a lifelong friendship in another country is extremely rewarding. Today, even, I am still talking to my Tomodachi partner. It’s crazy to think that just a few months ago I didn’t know anyone in Japan, and now every day I talk to the people that I’ve met, that I am honored to call my friends,” Copeland said. “I will never forget this program because I’ll never forget the people.”
Copeland has since created a short promotional video featuring the UNO-Japan program, which will make its debut on the University of New Orleans’ international website in the beginning of October. To watch his journey, or to find out more information about studying abroad in Japan, as well as other exciting destinations, don’t hesitate to check out inst.uno.edu or stop by UNO’s international center on campus.