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Riley Odom

Riley Odom

Major: Economics

"Study abroad helped me get my dream internship. During the interview, I found myself talking about Japan a lot. I emphasized the global perspective I gained and the constant hunger to learn that I had."

What led you to study abroad? Why did you choose your country/program?

As someone who is very career-oriented, I was unsure if I wanted to study abroad or intern during my summer break. With that being said, I was very excited when I found this program because it’s a combination of both, so it was perfect I choose Japan because I am Japanese American and have never been to Japan prior.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

My favorite cultural experience has to have been a tea ceremony in Kyoto. I didn't realize how specific each little step is. The peaceful feeling was unreal. In the silent room, you can hear the water pouring, the chasen (bamboo whisk) whisking the matcha, and your own breath. It forces you to not only slow down but also appreciate something as simple as tea.

What was the biggest challenge/concern of your study abroad experience? How did you respond?

We actually learn how to handle that in safety training. You learn what to yell if someone is grabbing you! Also, there are easy ways to help prevent it like going with friends, lean against the train so no one is behind you, use your backpack as a shield, and sitting down if there are no others that get priority.

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

For a typical weekday, I would wake up at 7am and commute to either work or class. Monday through Thursday, I worked at a digital marketing company. I did a lot of performance analysis for the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter advertisements. On Friday, I attended an in-person Japanese Modern History class at Sofia University. After work or class, I would explore and eat out with friends. The best part about Tokyo is the never-ending adventure. It's so densely populated, it is impossible to hit every single location.

What coursework did you take while abroad? How did courses abroad compare with Berkeley classes?

I took two classes while abroad:
The first class was Global Citizenship, which was an online class. This class focused on our personal reflection of the trip. It was very open ended and fun to read what other students were experiencing.

The second class was a Japanese Modern History class every Friday at Sofia University. This class was easier than Berkeley classes, but there was a lot of memorization. We took fun field trips to local historic sites!

What was the most memorable/meaningful aspect of your time abroad?

The most memorable part of Japan was Nikko. It felt so magical! This is where the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu is. The architecture and colors are incredible. I recommend googling Nikko right now to see what I am talking about. We got soba and manju after hiking around the mountain. The whole day trip was nothing but fun and uplifting.

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

Studying abroad gave me more confidence in myself. Before going, I had a lot of doubt on whether or not I can go abroad alone. I was terrified as the plane landed. I remember seeing employees outside of the airplane bowing, welcoming our arrival. Instead of being touched, I was only anxious! As days passed, the anxiety slowly calmed down. I started going on more adventures and had more fun. I have held onto the travel confidence since.

What would you recommend to students considering studying abroad, especially to your country or program?

I recommend two things: don’t stress out about the internship and make the classes pass no pass if you are able to. In retrospect, I was too focused on the internship and classes instead of going out and seeing new things. Don’t take this the wrong way though. There is a perfect middle, but I was too far on the stressed side. You should definitely do a quality job at the internship; it could pay off someday. You never know what professional networking abroad will lead to.

How has study abroad influenced your future career path? Or, how do you see the skills you gained while abroad translating into the field you want to go into?

Study abroad helped me get my dream internship. During the interview, I found myself talking about Japan a lot. I emphasized the global perspective I gained and the constant hunger to learn that I had. The guy who interviewed me seemed impressed. He even said that going abroad appeared to have made me a stronger person.