Now that I have gotten settled into living on the University of Oklahoma, I have been able to truly appreciate the diversity of opportunities that are available. As a Global Engagement Fellowship, I knew that I wanted to become involved in the international community on campus. One such opportunity was the OU Cousins program, which pairs American and international students. It is a wonderful way to experience another culture, and to welcome people into our own.

My cousin is studying at OU for a semester. She comes from a university in Hokkaido, Japan. It is in the largest region of Japan, and is surrounded by a vast mountain range. Aside from the obvious geographic differences between her home and Oklahoma, our conversations have opened my eyes to the enormous differences between our cultures.

Over lunch, I asked my cousin what some of the biggest differences were between here and Japan. She first mentioned the way strangers interaction in public settings. In her words, we Americans are “friendly.” For example, when she purchased her lunch, the cashier had chatted with her while they waited for the computer to complete the transaction. In Japan, the people serving your meal have a strict, script-like dialogue accompanied with many bows and smiles. I got the impression that she viewed the people in Oklahoma as being more friendly and open to conversation.

The list of differences went on and on. Our methods of transportation are different, the way our classes are taught, the way our cities and buildings look, and more. When I asked what was the most similar between our countries, she couldn’t give me an answer!

Our conversations have left me with a deep respect for my cousin. It takes such courage to leave everything you know for a semester and immerse yourself in a culture so different from your own.