Taking Up Judo in Japan: IES Abroad Ambassador of the Month Thomas Santos

Meet Thomas Santos, our April 2017 IES Abroad Ambassador of the Month! Thomas is finishing up his junior year at the University of Florida, where he majors in International Studies, minors in Japanese and Religion, and is an officer in the Japanese and Judo Clubs. Fun fact: he started practicing Judo while in Japan with the IES Abroad Nagoya Summer - Language and Culture Program in 2016.

Read on as Thomas shares how he befriended local students and how one particular interaction while abroad gave him a new perspective on life.

IES Abroad: How did you meet local students abroad?

Thomas Santos: It's hard not to meet local individuals abroad. Honestly, this program gave me plenty of opportunities to meet and interact with local people. One such way was the various IES Abroad activities, which allowed me to see the country, experience the culture, and, most importantly, meet the people. Another way was the student activities and clubs provided by the university. I personally joined the Judo and Karate club and practiced with them, which was a lot of fun. I think I'm better off because of it.

IES Abroad: What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?

TS: You will never experience something like this any other time in your life. This opportunity is something you will talk about for years to come and will change your perspective on the world.

IES Abroad: How did your perspective change?

TS: I had a moment that changed my perspective. Though it seems rather small and innocuous, it was a beautiful moment of genuine kindness and sincerity. It happened when I was trying (and failing) to buy a subway ticket. The old man next to me noticed my silent struggle and came to my rescue, showing me how to buy the ticket and where to go. It seems simple, but at the time I was a mess and freshly arrived in the country. He didn't need to help me - he had already bought his ticket. However, he stopped and spent time helping me, a stranger from a faraway place, and that meant something to me.

Thank you, Thomas!

Want to learn more about what it’s really like to study abroad? Contact an IES Abroad Ambassador and ask them your questions on all things study abroad.

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