Study Abroad in Kyoto!

Valerie Mercado Start Date: Jan 23, 2018 - End Date: May 22, 2018
  • Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

My Travel Story

by: Valerie Mercado Start Date: Jan 23, 2018 - End Date: May 22, 2018
I'm Valerie Mercado, a sophomore English major, at the University of Texas at Austin. 
As a little kid, I was introduced to bits of the Japanese culture through my sisters and brothers. I remember waking up on Saturday mornings to watch our favorite animes together or having my sister show me her favorite mangas. It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I was re-exposed to the Japanese culture and begin to fall in love with it. By joining my school’s anime club to self teaching myself Japanese through Youtube videos, I slowly developed my passion for the Japanese culture.

When I entered my university, I made it a goal of mine to take at least one Japanese language class. Upon learning the requirements of my degree, I noticed that I had a language requirement, so in the spring semester of my freshman year, I enrolled in my first Japanese class. I also stumbled upon the Japanese Association organization on campus and became a member. By taking a formal language class for about an hour to an hour and a half everyday, was rigorous. Japanese is not an easy language to speak or read/write, especially if you only have experiences with romantic languages. However, I truly wanted to succeed in this course and in all of my courses so I study everyday meticulously. In the class and in the association, I made friends who also shared similar interests with me and who supported my dream of one day visiting Japan. Somewhere in my journey of learning about the Japanese culture, a small dream of mine was to visit Japan and experience the culture first hand. Seeing sakura in real life, visiting a temple, or wearing a kimono were just a few of my personal wishes, and as I grew to learn the language in more depth, I truly wanted to have a wholesome conversation with multiple Japanese natives.

Witnessing different cultures first hand was something I was familiar with as a child of two immigrant parents from the Philippines, growing up in a community that was predominantly comprised of Hispanics and African Americans. It saddened me that the Japanese culture was something that I could not experience so easily. Attending the local Houston Japanese Festival was as close as I could get to experiencing it before I attended university. So when I study abroad in Japan, I wish to value every moment I have there and really learn as much as I can when I am over there. I have done my fair share of researching about the differences of American culture and Japanese culture, so I won't  do anything ludicrous when I am over there. Also, I have continued my language learning by attending two more Japanese courses at my university, but ultimately, I wish to learn more of the language by fully immersing myself there. Since my study abroad is an exchange program and the grades that I will receive will be on my transcript here in America, I will do my best to maintain my GPA and grades. Overall, studying abroad in Japan will benefit in a multitudes of ways, such as giving me a great learning experience in a top foreign university (Kyoto University), expanding my abilities in the Japanese language, and give my experience in living in Japan.

After applying and getting accepted into my study abroad program, I realized that I am really interested in living in Japan. When I graduate, I have decided that I will apply to the JET program and hopefully be able to teach English in Japan. If I am able to do that, then this study abroad experience will matter significantly, as I’ve previously mentioned. For years, I have learned about the Japanese culture and even in my future, I wish to learn even more about the culture and meet/befriend more Japanese people. It’s in my hopes that I will be able to learn about a plethora cultures around the world and experience them first hand in my future, as it is my passion.

I plan to vlog/record Japanese themed videos while I am in Japan and I would like to show you all my journey and also shed light on the differences between the American and Japanese culture. 

If you choose to donate, I do have some small incentives:
$1-$20: A shoutout in one of my videos
$21-$50: Sneek preview access to my videos before I post them
$51-$100: The opportunity to choose what type of video I create (related to Japan)
$101+:Receive an authentic postcard from me!

TL; DR I have been given this wonderful opportunity to study abroad at one of Japan's top national universities: Kyoto University. 
It has always been a little dream of mine to one day visit Japan and I have worked hard to be able to receive this opportunity. However, financial resources recently have been very tight, which is why I am putting myself out there with this funding page.

Anything helps and I would love to share my journey with you!
  • Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan


  • Less Than A Month Away

    Less than a month away
    Thank you so much for the donations so far, it really means a lot!
    I will be leaving for Kyoto, Japan on April 1st. So far, I've been attending a Japanese lecture here at UT to maintain my Japanese. I recently found out that I will be staying at Yoshida International dormitory on the Yoshida campus ( which I am super excited about! As the leave date approaches further, I will continue to update but that's it for now!