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Adventures abroad invaluable
Gandy Henry
JMC 215
Laura Ceron

Speaker for the Friday morning Honors Convocation and breakfast, senior Laura Ceron has spent the last year before her December 2010 graduation studying at Sapporo University in Sapporo, Japan, after she received full tuition from the UNK Office of Multicultural Affairs to study translation and interpretation of languages.

Ceron is a double major in Spanish and French, and her minor is Japanese. Born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, Ceron was exposed to Japanese culture and language at an early age.  Ceron and her family moved to the U.S. when she was 14 years old.  “Since I was back in Colombia, Japan has been a great interest in my life.  Colombia-Japan relations are rather strong, so Japanese culture was always advertised and I grew up to like it,” Ceron said.  

Ceron’s first study abroad took her to Besancon, France, where she took French language and culture courses.  “In a sense, France helped me prepare for Japan by helping me develop an open mind in which I should be able to expect the unexpected,” Ceron said.

While studying in France was more natural to Ceron, studying in Japan presented a much bigger challenge.  An independent person, Ceron felt frustrated and discouraged because she was so dependent on others at the beginning.

“I literally felt like a baby because I hardly understood anything and couldn’t read any of the signs around the city.”

Ceron studied in Japan with fellow senior Talon Gorgen. This past summer, Ceron and Gorgen went on an adventure around Japan traveling from Sapporo on the north island to Kyoto on the south part of the main island. “We wanted to do this by ourselves.  And we did it.  It took us three days to get to Kyoto and three days to get back,” Ceron said.

Each took a backpack and a Japanese dictionary, taking the local trains and sleeping in train stations, parks and random benches since the trains do not operate at night.  

“The most valuable part of this experience was not only that we discovered we had the ‘guts’ to do all of this ‘crazy’ stuff, but that we proved to ourselves that if we set our minds to it, we can do literally anything… even when Japanese language and cultural nuances are still rather foreign to us,” Ceron said.

The differences in culture have made Ceron’s stay rather comical, which she says has made it much more enjoyable.  “We’ve had a lot of laughs just because we were usually unaware of the cultural connotations of certain situations, such as bowing and even saying thank you at the right time.  Thankfully, the Japanese community is extremely friendly and always willing to lend a hand.”

Ceron described her trip to Japan as an eye-opening experience where she learned to appreciate what she has and who she is. She has come to love her own Colombian culture more and realized her passions are Spanish and French.

Upon her return back home to Omaha, Ceron looked forward to again being in a place where she understands the culture and doesn’t have to worry about being impolite. She will also begin her job hunt. Her dream at the moment is to become a medical translator and interpreter in a hospital.

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