Lauren Hecht-Study Abroad - Carnegie Mellon University

Lauren Hecht

"I found out that I was much more adventurous than I thought I was.  I found out that I would like to go on many more adventures in the future."

Meet Lauren Hecht...

Lauren is a Fine Arts student at Carnegie Mellon.  In the spring of 2008, Lauren went on a life-changing adventure when she studied abroad at Temple University, Japan Campus in Tokyo, Japan.

Before She Went

As Lauren was preparing to study abroad, she mentally prepared herself as best as she could by talking with friends who had been to Tokyo.  Though she was able to connect with these friends, she still felt a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect, knowing that everyone experiences things differently. 

Arrival to Tokyo

On the plane ride, Lauren was so nervous that it was hard for her to sleep.  When the plane landed, her first impression of Japan was that it was shockingly clean!  Not knowing her whereabouts, Lauren found herself just "going with the flow," which certainly helped her in adapting to Tokyo.

Living in Tokyo

Being Caucasian in Japan, Lauren was a minority.  She states that, "you stand out wherever you go... People come up to you all of the time and ask for pictures and want to practice their English."  She didn't seem to mind.  However, Lauren chuckles when thinking about personal space in Tokyo, saying that "there's no such thing as personal space.  There are people everywhere!" 

Lauren absolutely loved the food in Tokyo.  It was fun for her to go grocery shopping because the food was so unique and different than home.  Though there were so many people in Tokyo, Lauren said that sleeping was fairly easy because it was so quiet at night in her dorm room. 

She recalls her first week in Tokyo as being "such a whirlwind" because she wasn't able to really reflect on what was happening.  Communication seemed to be the biggest challenge for Lauren, but she found that the people in Tokyo were very courteous and often stopped to help her if at any point she looked lost.  Lauren was thankful that people not only stopped but also walked with her to the places that she needed to be.

Lauren found herself attending many cultural activities.  Some fond memories included the Spring Festival, where people put on demon masks and threw beans at each other, Brush painting, and her trip to Mt. Fuji.

Looking Back on Her Experience...

When she came home, things were so different than they used to be to Lauren.  She recalls the difficulties of reverse culture shock and how challenging it was to become readjusted to the little things, like the bus schedule and how Americans act toward one another. 

Despite the challenge of readjustment, Lauren gained a great deal of self-confidence in her ability to  easily adapt to any situation and be comfortable with herself.  When thinking about how study abroad has affected her in terms of her professional career, she says that it has really helped her become more organized, learn quickly, and just roll with the punches.  She feels that she can now relate to anything in life.

To those who are planning to go abroad, Lauren suggests doing a lot of research before going. Lauren recommends trying to get in contact with people who have traveled or lived in the location being considered.  One last piece of advice that Lauren has is to have a good picture of the global economy before going to another country.

Lauren looks forward to visiting Tokyo someday again soon.  She misses traveling, her favorite restaurant, and seeing the Tokyo Towers each day!

Lauren Hecht

Lauren Hecht
Fine Art
Tokyo, Japan
Spring 2008