Daija Williams, a senior at the University of Minnesota Crookston, never imagined herself going out of the country let alone two countries, but a study abroad trip last summer changed all that and she’s glad it did.

    Daija Williams, a senior at the University of Minnesota Crookston, never imagined herself going out of the country let alone two countries, but a study abroad trip last summer changed all that and she’s glad it did.

    “My study abroad trip was amazing and life changing,” Williams says. Under the guidance of Study Abroad Coordinator Rae French and Associate Professor Rachel Mccoppin as well as professional tour guides, a group of nine students from the U of M Crookston visited China and Japan.

    For Williams, a communication major, the 18-day adventure would take her more than 7,000 miles from her home in Minneapolis, Minn.

    “Before the trip we had assignments related to what we would be experiencing in the two countries and during the trip we had to write about 10 sites that we visited in a journal as well as a final project including a slide show of the trip,” she explains. “I was incredibly fortunate to have financial support from Northwest School of Agriculture alumnus Les Nielsen and his wife whom I have known since I was a child. I know not everyone has this kind of support, and I am grateful to them for helping me. I wish everyone could have the experience.”

    The trip proved to be an eye opener for Williams as well as a blessing. “I never imagined myself going out of the country, but this trip taught me a lot about myself,” she says. “There is great reward in learning about who you are when you have to rely on yourself. Things don’t always go as planned and you learn to handle change and overcome fear.”

    The best part of the trip for Williams was being 12,389 feet high to experience the beauty of Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan. Something that stands out in her memory was seeing ducks on leashes. “It was definitely a bit of a culture shock because in the United States it would be dogs on leashes,” she smiles.

    “My favorite part of the trip had to be in Kyoto, Japan, where we went hiking up the monkey exhibit to see monkeys in their natural habitat,” she recalls. “We were able to feed the monkeys mangos and I captured a rare picture of a monkey with her baby; it was the most precious view I’ve ever seen.”

    The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime for Williams; however, she says she would not mind going again. “China and Japan are both amazing to experience,” she says.

    Williams hopes others will have the opportunity to venture beyond their comfort zone, and experience the culture of another country. “Getting to know both China and Japan—both customs and culture—really puts a new perspective on life.”