How Studying Abroad Can Change Your Life

“For those students, it is a big decision to come to study abroad. After arriving here, a lot of things that you have never thought of could happen. Supporting them is very rewarding. I am happy to hear them say, ‘Thank you very much for your help back then,’ even if I have forgotten about it.”

Anri Zama

Have you ever studied abroad? Studying and living in foreign countries has been recognized as a significant life changing experience for many people. I would know— I’m one of them. Being an international student in Southern California in my early 20’s has impacted my life so much. It gave me a different way to see the world, people, and everything. I became more free than before, and now have friends almost everywhere in the world. I feel more connected to society and I live more proactively. It just opened up so many possibilities and completely changed my life. And all those experiences were only possible with support from my family, schools, friends, and community who believed and encouraged me during the journey. I was curious how Portland State University, one of the most radical and diverse universities in the country, supports international students. I found that PSU has a very unique sector called Portland Center. It provides opportunities for students in foreign countries to study at PSU. And somehow it is specifically working on a relationship with my home country of Japan. I wanted to find out more about it, so I spoke with Anri Zama, Program Manager of Portland Center at Office of Global Engagement and Innovation.

Anri Zama, Program Manager at the Portland Center and ’’Yokohama National University-Hokkaido University Branch Office at Office of Global Engagement and Innovation, Portland State University.

The interview was conducted in Japanese, which is both my and Anri’s  native language and it has been translated into English

Midori: 最初にアメリカに来たきっかけは何だったんですか?
What brought you to the U.S. in the first place?

Anri Zama: 最初は2005年、日本の大学在学中にオレゴン大学で学びました。
I first studied at the University of Oregon in 2005 while still in college in Japan.

Midori: それは、交換留学で?
Was that through an exchange program?

Anri Zama:そうです。それで、2006年に日本でディグリー(学位)を取得したんですけど、ちょっと物足りないなっていうのがあって。
Yes, it was. Then I got a degree in Japan in 2006, but I felt it was a little unsatisfactory.


At the university in Japan, I majored in Communication in the English department, and I was studying conversation analysis. I also wanted to learn more about that.


So I looked for a graduate school in the United States. Of course, I first looked at the University of Oregon because I liked the school. I don’t know about now, but at that time, the only graduate school of communication at the University of Oregon was focused on journalism. It wasn’t quite what I was interested in. Then I saw that Portland State University had it, so I applied here.

Anri Zama enjoys hiking on the trail to Mt Hood in 2009. Portland, Oregon.
Photo courtesy of Portland Center at Portland State University.

Midori: 何年で卒業したんですか?

How long did it take for you to complete graduate school?

Anri Zama: ダラダラダラダラやって…

I was so slow…

Midori: 結構大変ですよね。友人も10年かかったって言っていました。

It’s pretty hard work, isn’t it? A friend of mine said it took them ten years.

Anri Zama: 私もそのくらいです。えっと、2015年だったかな?たぶん。

That’s about the same for me. Let’s see, was it 2015? Maybe.

Midori: じゃ、7年か8年くらいかけて卒業したんですね。

So it took you about seven or eight years to graduate?

Anri Zama: はい。本当にギリギリで。。。。7年で、取得した単位が無効になるんです。

I almost couldn’t make it through… After seven years, the credits I’ve earned will be invalid.

Midori: えー!消えちゃうんですか?単位が??
What? Credits can become invalid?

Anri Zama: そうなんです。ギリギリでした。
Yes, I was on the edge.

Midori: そんなルール知りませんでした。。。

I had no idea about the seven year rule.

So, how did you start working here, at Portland Center?

Anri Zama: 私は、学生の頃からここの国際部で働かせてもらっています。国際部にはまず、Office of International Student and Scholar Services っていうところがあって、そこはPSUの留学生ほぼ全員のサポートをしています。そこにはイミグレーションサービスとライフサポートという部署があります。イミグレーションはやはり、ビザの問題等をサポートするところです。ステータスに関する質問とか、色々あるじゃないですか?そういうことの相談に乗ってアドバイスするところです。そこに5.6人の職員がいます。

I have been working here since I was a student. The International Office is for International Student and Scholar Services, which is responsible for supporting almost all international students at PSU. There are two departments: Immigration Services and Life Support. Immigration is the place that helps with visa and legal issues. There are a lot of questions about status and so on, aren’t there? We give advice on these issues. There are five to six employees there.

Midori: え!イミグレーションだけで5人もいるんですか?

Wow. There are five people in Immigration alone?

Anri Zama: そうです。色々分かれているんですね。Visiting Scholar担当、学生のJ1ビザ担当っていう感じで分かれています。

Yes. They are divided into two groups, one for Visiting Scholars and the other for students on J1 visas.


The Life Support Team organizes orientations and events. Most students who come from abroad take some time to adjust to their new life in Portland. Local students can go home for holidays, but most international students cannot, so we organize events for those times.

Closing ceremony. Photo courtesy of PSU Portland Center’s website


For example, we arrange families with whom students can share Thanksgiving dinner, make gingerbread cookies around Christmas, and we organize international events.


Apart from that, there is also Education Abroad, a team that sends local students to study abroad.


There is also the Portland Center, which is a program that I belong to, and then there is the International Special Program, which accepts students on a short term basis. I believe they are doing something today…

Midori: やってました!日本人の子たちがいた。

Yes, I saw them! A group of young Japanese students!

Anri Zama: えっと、彼女たちは、高校生って言ってたかな?そういう短期で英語を学びにくるっていうプログラムを運営しているところもあります。

I believe they are high school students from Japan… like that program, we run such short-term programs for students to come and learn English.


Also, do you know what ILT is?

Midori: わからないです。

No, I don’t.

Anri Zama: 主に、ESLの英語のライティング、リーディング、ディスカッションを教えているところです。そこは、以前は別の所属だったのですけど、最近、国際部に移動してきました。

It is primarily teaching ESL, English writing, reading, and discussion. That used to be a different affiliation, but has recently moved to the International Department.


And the Portland Center, which I am in charge of, is working 100% with Japanese students at this moment.

A class held by the Portland Center. Photo courtesy of PSU Portland Center’s website.

Midori: 具体的にはどんなことをしているんですか?

What exactly do you do?

Anri Zama: コロナを経て、色々ごちゃ混ぜになっているんですけど、元々のメインの役割としては、ポートランドセンターのプログラムマネージャーです。

After COVID-19, it’s changing, but my title is Program Manager at the Portland Center.


The predecessor program was a couple of decades old and was a program that accepted students from Waseda University in Japan. Back then, it was called the “Waseda Oregon Program,” and there are many stories behind it, but that is the name I know of.


Half of the funding was also covered by Waseda University, and an admin staff was stationed in PSU from Waseda University. PSU accepted 30-40 students a year, 50 at the most, from Waseda University who wanted to study abroad.

Midori: 50人!そんなに!

50! That many!

Anri Zama: 2000何年だったかな?2012かな?早稲田大学は撤退し、ベイエリアにシンクタンクのオフィスを立ち上げることになりました。それに伴い、私たちは100%PUSの組織になりました。

It was probably 2012…? Waseda University pulled out and decided to set up a think tank office in the Bay Area. With that, we became a 100% PSU organization.


Since then, we have continued to accept students from Waseda University, and additionally, we have begun to accept students from other universities in Japan. Most of the students are from universities with which we have partnerships, but individuals can now apply as well.

Midori: それは最近ですか?

Is that new?

Anri Zama: そうですね。最近、2020年くらいからですね。

Yes, I would say it’s recent, since about 2020.

Midori: じゃ、早稲田大学から始まって、まとまった人数が大学単位で留学して来ていたんですね。

So, starting with Waseda University, a large number of people came to study abroad at PSU on a university basis?

Anri Zama: そうです。元々、早稲田大学が「留学生を送りたい」っていうことから始まったんです。

That’s right. It originally started with Waseda University’s desire to send international students.


We have a different tuition structure. Students who come to study abroad on a regular degree program pay the same tuition as out-of-state students based on credits registering, but students in our program can take up to 16 credits for $6500 per semester.

Midori: それは、インターナショナルステューデントとして考えると、とてもお得ですね。

That is a great deal when you think about it as an International Student.

Anri Zama: そうなんですよ。それもあって、かつてはパートナーシップを結んでいるところからしか受け入れられなかったんです。今は、パートナースクール以外のどの大学からも、F1ビザで来れるようになりました。

That’s right. That’s one of the reasons why we used to only accept students from partnerships. Now, we can come from any university other than partner schools on an F1 visa.

Midori: それは、ディグリー取得のプログラムではないからということですね?

Is that because it is not a degree program?

Anri Zama: そうですね。最長で4タームのみ在学可能です。

Yes. Students with our program can only be enrolled for a maximum of 4 terms.

Midori: では、日本人の学生さんたちからすると、日本の在学中の短期留学プログラムということですね?

So, from those Japanese students’ point of view, it is a short-term study abroad program during their school years in Japan. 

Anri Zama: そうです、そうです。
Yes, that’s right.

Midori: ということは、その学生さんたちはPSUで取得した単位を日本の大学の単位に振り替えて、そこで卒業できるということですね。

So those students can transfer credits earned at PSU to Japanese university credits and graduate there?

Anri Zama: そうです。


Midori: 在学期間の一部をPSUで過ごすということなんですね。

So students are spending part of their school year at PSU?

Anri Zama: その通りです。

That is correct.

Midori: それはいいですね。

That’s nice!!

Anri Zama: 理系の学生さんはどうかわからないですけれど。理系の学生さんはほとんど来ません。

I don’t know about science students, though. Very few science students come to our program.

Midori: なるほど。座間さんは学生時代から仕事をはじめて、かれこれ…

You have been working since you were a student, and it was…

Anri Zama: アルバイトのような感じで入ったのは、2010年からです。なので、もう10年以上ですね。

I started working here in 2010, as a kind of part-time job. So it has been more than 10 years now.

Midori: 今の仕事で一番楽しいことは何ですか?

What do you enjoy most about your current job?

Anri Zama: 学生相手に仕事をさせてもらっているので、若い学生さんとお話できるだけでも楽しいです。あとは、なんというか、夢というか、日本を出てくるっていうこと自体、勇気がいることというか。一大決心をして来ます。こっちに来てから、勝手がわからないという中で、いろんなことがあるじゃないですか。それをサポートするっていうのは、やっぱりやりがいがあります。そんな中で、私が忘れているようなことを「あの時、ありがとうございました」って言ってくれること、それだけで嬉しいです。

I enjoy just talking with young students. For those students, it is a big decision to study abroad. After arriving here, a lot of things that you have never thought of could happen. Supporting them is very rewarding. I am happy to hear them say, “Thank you very much for your help back then,” even if I have forgotten about it.

Midori: なるほど。これからやっていきたいことっていうのはありますか?

I see. Is there anything you would like to do in the future?

Anri Zama: コロナに入って、オンラインのツールが広い層に認知され、充実してきました。これまでは、現在在籍している学生さんと、興味を持っている日本の学生さんを繋げたことはなかったんです。でも、来る前に、私が話すより、現地で体験している学生さんに話をしてもらった方がいいのではないかと考えています。

After experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, our online tools have been recognized and enhanced by a wide audience. Until now, I had never connected currently enrolled students with prospective students in Japan. But I think it would be better to have students who are actually experiencing the program talk about it instead of me talking.

Midori: 学生さんの目線ですね。

It’s actually a student’s perspective.

Anri Zama: はい。これまでやったことはないんですけど、その、オンラインの機会を持ってもいいかなというのが考えていることです。

Yes. I have never done this before, but, you know, I am thinking about having an online orientation.

Midori: 杏里さん自身の目標はどうですか?

What about your own goals, Anri?

Anri Zama: 今、どうしても目先のタスクに追われてしまっているので、もう少し自己投資をしたいです。例えば、NFSAっていうカンファレンスがあるんですけど、そういうのにも参加したいです。地元のものには参加したことがあるんですけど、メインカンファレンスは他の地域で開催されます。参加するには時間も費用もかかります。

Right now, I’m really caught up in immediate tasks, so I’d like to invest a little more in myself. For example, there is a conference called NAFSA, Association of International Educators that I would like to attend. I have attended the local one, but the main conference is held in another part of the country. It takes a lot of time and money to attend.

Midori Yamanaka (she/her) is a social practice artist and educator born and raised in Japan, currently living and working in Portland, Oregon. Her practice explores ways to harness creativity based on common values in diverse societies and their respective cultures. She has been working on many international projects as a creative and cultural hub, including Virtual Playdate (2022), World Friendship Online (2020), Asia Winter Game in Sapporo (2017), Esin Creative Workshop in Sapporo (2015), and many others. She holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Art Center College of Design, and currently is studying and practicing Art and Social Practice at Portland State University.

Anri Zama (she/her) is a Program Manager at the Portland Center and ’’Yokohama National University-Hokkaido University Branch Office at Office of Global Engagement and Innovation, Portland State University. She holds a master’s degree of science in Communication Studies from Portland State University, and a bachelor’s degree in English from Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan. Anri was born and raised in Kanagawa, Japan, and moved to Portland, OR in 2008. She enjoys her family, reading, relaxing, traveling, baking, and eating delicious foods. Portland Center :

The Social Forms of Art (SoFA) Journal is a publication dedicated to supporting, documenting and contextualising social forms of art and its related fields and disciplines. Each issue of the Journal takes an eclectic look at the ways in which artists are engaging with communities, institutions and the public. The Journal supports and discusses projects that offer critique, commentary and context for a field that is active and expanding.

Created within the Portland State University Art & Social Practice Masters In Fine Arts. Program, SoFA Journal is now fully online.

Conversations on Everything is an expanding collection of interviews produced as part of SoFA Journal. Through the potent format of casual interviews as artistic research, insight is harvested from artists, curators, people of other fields and everyday humans. These conversations study social forms of art as a field that lives between and within both art and life.

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