Reconnecting Across Continents: A Journey To Hokkaido

Guest Post by: Silke Van Caeneghem, a Junior studying Finance, Information Systems, and CISB. She is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient, and she studied abroad through a Foster Exchange & Direct Enroll at Kobe University in Kobe, Japan during Autumn Semester 2023.

Studying abroad is an opportunity to forge lifelong friendship spanning across continents, breaking cultural and language barriers, and creating opportunities to experience a way of life you have never seen before. 

For 6 months, I was given the opportunity to experience life in Japan. Although I could write about countless experiences there, enough to fill a book, for this blog post I would like to focus on one very special one, the CISB reunion that we were able to have in Hokkaido, Japan during Winter break. 

I got very lucky with the timing of my exchange as I had the opportunity to study abroad at the same time as many of the other members of CISB’s Japan and Korea track. This allowed us to plan a Winter reunion in none other than Hokkaido Japan, right in the heart of Winter.  Along with the UW students who were studying with me at Kobe University, we were able to meet another studying at Keio University in Tokyo, reconnect with former exchange students who had come to UW the previous year, and even meet a friend who had come all the way from her study abroad at Yonsei University in Korea.  

  1. Meeting our friend from Keio University was a wonderful opportunity to connect with someone who was in nearly the same situation as us, only in the Kantou (Tokyo) region instead of Kansai (Osaka). I really enjoyed comparing the differences between these regions and discussing how our choice of school affected the experiences that we had. 
  2. One of my most treasured memories from my study abroad was being able to reconnect with the students who had come to UW the year prior. It was so interesting to be on the other side as an exchange student myself, and I felt like I was able to understand and connect with them a lot more now that I had been in their shoes. It was so amazing to see them in their ‘zone’ so to speak, and sometimes it felt like the cards were reversed now with them showing us around, speaking the local language, and introducing us to their culture. 
  3. A great benefit of studying in either Japan or Korea is how close the countries are. I would highly recommend anyone who is studying in one of these countries to visit the other, as my trip to Korea is one of my fondest memories. One member of CISB’s Korea track aligned her trip to Japan to meet us in Hokkaido. It was truly intriguing to hear about her experiences and really helped me to understand some of the differences between Japan and Korea despite how similar they might seem at first glance.

Joining CISB was truly one of the best decisions I made, and I am so grateful for the lifelong friendships that I have forged as a result of this experience. The Japan/Korea track has such a strong community, and I am so lucky to have been able to maintain this community across oceans as we came together from Japan, Korea, and America. Receiving the Global Business Center’s scholarship enabled me to travel to Hokkaido this Winter and reunite with other CISB members around the world, an experience which will stick with me for life. If there’s any takeaway for those who are reading this, it would be to really connect with your track and the students who are on exchange to America now because you really have the opportunity to create this amazing community and reconnect in your target country.