Dialogue with: Nanami. Malta, a Unique Study Abroad Experience
Interviewing an inspirational young woman on her study abroad experience!
By Terah Summers, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
For my good friend Nanami, the world has truly been her playground. At the young age of 23, her passport resembles that of a well-seasoned world traveller. Born in Japan, Nanami has visited more countries than I can count on both hands. And of these countries, she has lived in Canada, Malta, Spain, and Hawai’i. Now she is a senior attending University of Hawai’i at Manoa studying international relations. She was my roommate when I studied abroad in Spain and we quickly became close friends. I wanted to share her story because she has inspired me to turn travel into something more than an extended vacation. And even though having such an impressive collection of passport stamps could turn one into a “travel braggart,” she has remained a humble, beautiful person inside and out. Here I share her experience studying abroad in Malta. Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean with a historical UNESCO selected city and gorgeous aqua beaches. I asked Nanami a few questions about her yearlong stay in this unique study abroad destination.
Me: So why Malta? I was always curious in finding out why you decided to study abroad in Malta. Usually students choose the “popular” study abroad destinations like the UK, France, Italy or Australia.
Nanami: One of my reasons for studying abroad was to learn English. I wanted to live in a place where there weren’t many Japanese people like myself because I wanted to be forced to speak English at all times. When your trying to learn a new language it is important to practice as much as possible even if it’s difficult at first. I also loved the idea of living in place as uniquely beautiful as Malta. It has moderate, Mediterranean weather and a beautiful, historic country. It seemed like a great place to spend a year studying abroad. It was also cheaper to live there than other English-speaking countries in Europe like the UK.
Me: What were five of your favorite places or experiences in Malta?
1. The city of Valletta is absolutely gorgeous! Valletta is an old, historic city where its fun to just get lost in the streets. Malta has a lot of influences from neighboring cultures, so the city has a mix of Arabic and Italian architecture.
2. The Blue Lagoon. A lot of people in Europe come to Malta for vacation, and you can see why at the Blue Lagoon. It’s a white pebbled cove on the western end of the island. I’ve never seen water of such a vivid blue color before. You can swim and sunbathe for hours. Also be sure to check out the caves nearby. It’s a must-see. Thirdly
3. The nightlife is something you have to experience on Malta. Malta has an “Ibiza-like” night scene so you need to spend a night out in the streets if you visit.
4. Take a boat cruise. The scenery is stunning and it’s a fun way to spend the night with friends.
5. The food in Malta is something you need to try. Because of it’s location in the Mediterranean, Malta has some of the best seafood. A Maltese specialty is cooked rabbit, so be sure to try that.
Me: How did you live like a local in you study abroad city?
Nanami: I spent a year living in Malta going to an international school so that gave me a lot of time to explore and learn more about the country. I was the only Japanese girl in my school and so I became friends with students from many other countries. Some of the students lived in other European countries, but some were Maltese. Making a diverse friend group helped me delve deeper into the local culture. Living with a host family also gave me an inside look into the Maltese culture. I would always try go out and try local food and explore local spots in the city.
Me: How has studying abroad impacted your personal growth?
Nanami: Studying abroad in Malta was eye-opening experience for me. I admit that sometimes it was difficult to adapt to life in Malta because my Japanese culture was so different from European culture. Many times I felt very out-of-place. For example one day I brought a rice ball to school for lunch. The other students thought it was very strange and I was too embarrassed to bring it for lunch again. I brought sandwiches for the rest of the year even though I don’t care for them. Many times I felt like I had to hide my heritage and blend in with everyone. I was also only fifteen years old at the time. But having uncomfortable experiences like this helped me to realize that there are many diverse, fascinating cultures. I don’t need to hide my culture when traveling abroad but embrace it and share it with other people. That’s how the world becomes a more united, accepting place. This was something I learned while living in Malta.
Me: You’ve lived abroad several times. In fact right your still living abroad right now! What are some tips you can give students living abroad for the first time or some words of advice?
Nanami: You learn a lot while living abroad. Some tips like not over-packing are a given. But there are some tips that might not be as obvious to first time travelers. I advise that you learn more about your own country from before traveling. Many times people you meet while traveling will want to learn more about your culture/country. So it’s good to know a thing or two about your country so that you can share your culture with other people. Secondly, never have expectations. Always travel with an open mind. There are many different ways that people live and think. Sometimes it will be very different from what you are used to, but that’s the beauty of traveling. And always try to make local or international friends. Sticking to friends from your own country is comforting but having international friends is one of the best parts of traveling (then you can visit them in their country later!)
Me: So you are graduating next semester. What’s next for you?
Nanami: Travelling has helped shape my future goal. I’m planning on going back home to Japan and hopefully joining the JOVC (Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers) which is like the Japanese version of the Peace Corps. I want to volunteer in South America to learn more about Latin culture and practice my Spanish. After visiting and volunteering in countries like Mexico and Guatemala on past trips, I’ve gained an interest in human rights and international development. I want a job that helps improve the lives of other people. Going to graduate school is also future goal of mine.
Thank you so much to Nanami for doing this interview with me! I hope that her story gave you some inspiration to travel and explore this vast, amazing world of ours!