Three Lehman Students Studying in Japan on Scholarships

From right: Krystal Garcia and Shanik Vasquez in Nagoya, Japan.

When Shanik Vazquez was in middle school, she discovered a love of animé. Next came  an interest in manga (Japanese comics), as well as the Japanese pop music. Many teens would be satisfied that their pop culture tastes crossed borders, but Vazquez wanted to know more. “I was interested in the culture, not just the superficial stuff, but the customs and values,” she says. So when she entered Lehman College in 2013, Vazquez enrolled in a Japanese beginner’s language class. Four semesters of language study later, the junior is living in Japan doing study abroad at Sugiyama Jogakuen University. She will join Lehman students Ruby Cabuya and Crystal Garcia for the semester-long program.

Vazquez first learned about the exchange program in Summer 2014. “One of my Japanese professors called me to say the College was going to begin sending students to Sugiyama,” says Vazquez, who is a journalism major with a minor in Japanese. She was not able to go then, but began planning so she could be ready next time. That included securing a job in the Study Abroad Office. “I was assisting other students with their process and applications,” she says. “That really helped me decide and know how to progress.”

Working in the study abroad office also allowed Vazquez the chance to learn about funding that would make the trip financially possible. She, along with the other two Lehman students studying this semester in Japan, is a recipient of the JASSO scholarship, which is available for qualified international students accepted by Japanese universities. With the JASSO, each will receive 80,000 yen (approximately $665) per month for five months. In addition, two of the Lehman students in Sugiyama received grants from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which goes to American undergraduates to pursue international study.

Although Vazquez is focused on polishing her Japanese, she did a lot of pre-trip preparation to find places to visit that will further her knowledge—and, she hopes, love for—Japan’s culture. “I’ve been looking into landmarks and cities I want to travel to. I learned a lot of the places that are used in anime exist in real life so I can go and see a location where an entire story took place,” says Vazquez, adding she’d also like to go to the theme park dedicated to Hello Kitty. The Bronx native will be in Japan as a student through January, she is excited about how her primary learning institution made this trip possible. “I got a tremendous amount of support from Lehman,” she says, remembering late nights in the study abroad office completing applications, as well as useful advice and information.

In 2015, about 102 Lehman students participated in study abroad programs in various countries, including Singapore, Mexico, and Chile. It is the largest number of students in the history of the College to do so in one semester. “Relatively few students from the U.S. study abroad at all, and fewer still leave the comfort of their campus for semester-long programs half the world away,” says Lynne Van Voorhis, assistant dean for international programs and global partnerships. “Shanik, Krystal, and Ruby are three Lehman students who have dared to leave homes in the Bronx for a full semester of adventure in Japan.”