Studying Abroad in Japan Gives JJC Students An Experience to Last a Lifetime

Anticipating an adventure, ten Joliet Junior College students eagerly boarded a plane for a study abroad trip to Matsuyama, Japan, earlier this summer. They came back three weeks later with an experience that would forever change their global perspectives – and a journey they would never forget.

A calligraphy class in Matsuyama, Japan. JJC student pictured: Pawel Fudala.

Once they were settled on the campus of Ehime University half a world away from home, the students began taking International Studies 101, taught by JJC’s International Education Coordinator, Tamara Brattoli.

See photos of JJC’s trip to Japan

While Brattoli has been on a number of JJC’s annual study abroad trips to Japan, this was the first time she taught a class at the university.

Brattoli made International Studies 101 fun, and during every class, Ehime University students would stop in to practice their English with JJC students. Together, they’d discuss cultural differences and issues.

“There’s a lot more to the world than I originally thought,” said JJC student Pawel Fudala, who especially enjoyed that aspect of Brattoli’s class. One of the most influential things he learned in class and through the Japanese students was the concept of globalization, and how it affects Japan and other countries.

Another JJC student, Ashley Keib, said what amazed her most about Japanese culture was the way they recycled and disposed of trash.

“We actually had to take an hour class on how to do it,” she explained. “If you put something in the wrong bin, they won’t collect it. There are separate containers for things like paper and plastic items that are burnable, for metals, things like that. And they all have different symbols.”

But the JJC students didn’t only go to Japan to take a class. During their free time, the students traveled to Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto to visit many of the country’s famous historical sites.

For one weekend during their trip, both Keib and Fudala stayed with host families.

Fudala said his host family seemed pretty similar to the average American family – the parents drove their kids to sports practice and went shopping. But there were differences, too – like when Fudala accompanied his host mom, who was a teacher, to a tea ceremony for kindergarteners and first graders. He also learned how to use a bamboo sword.

At Keib’s host family’s house, she learned how to do Japanese painting and tried on her host mom’s kimotos.

Brattoli enjoyed hearing about her students’ experiences with their host families, especially because the students immersed themselves in the Japanese culture – and that’s what Brattoli loves so much about the study abroad program at JJC. Studying abroad in a foreign country gives students a broader learning experience opposed to if they just came to the country as a tourist on vacation.

“As a campus, JJC wants to broaden their students’ minds and show them how there are so many different cultures that you can experience,” Brattoli said. “There’s much more outside of where you are now. There’s so much more to see.”

JJC Study Abroad Trip to Japan: Tea Ceremony.

According to, the average student in the United States chooses to study abroad in his or her junior year. Thanks to JJC, there are study abroad opportunities for freshmen and sophomores, and because JJC is a community college, it’s often cheaper as well. This is something Fudala was thankful for.

“JJC was more affordable than going straight to a university, and being able to go on a study abroad trip was also really affordable,” he said. “This kind of opportunity is out there at JJC, and when I came back, I tried to convince my friends that they needed to go because it was a really great experience. I’m glad JJC was able to offer it.”

“I would encourage other JJC students to go because it’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience and you learn so much and get to experience so much that it’s definitely worth going,” Keib added.

Joliet Junior College traveled to Japan with other students and faculty from the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. This year, the JJC Foundation provided grants for students to offset the cost.

In addition to the three-week study abroad trip Japan every summer, JJC offers study abroad opportunities in China, Austria, Costa Rica, England, France, Ireland, Spain and more. The college works with the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs (ICISP), so if a student wants to study somewhere that JJC does not specifically offer, they can do so through the ICISP.

For more information about studying abroad in Japan or for the study abroad program at JJC, visit, or contact Brattoli at

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