Danny Do


Stanford in Kyoto, Spring Quarter 2014-15
Major: Biology
College year while abroad: Junior


Why did you choose to study abroad in Kyoto?

Food. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I tried something new everyday. Aside from that, I had been drawn to Japanese culture since high school through the Japanese program. My hometown, Boston, is also sister cities with the Kyoto and often holds cultural exchange programs and events related to Kyoto, so I had early exposure to Japan culture. I then started taking Japanese at Stanford and fate finally led me to Kyoto. 

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Kyoto? 

I had very few expectations going in, mainly because I felt that the Japanese language program at Stanford prepares students and prefaces Japanese culture and customs extremely well. Furthermore, the knowledge of students from previous quarters and the student ambassadors helped as well. 

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Kyoto?

As a premed student, I had little room to explore classes outside of the required core. In Kyoto, I was able to take a class on traditional music of East Asia and another on Japanese popular culture. And that’s it, which was another academic benefit. At Stanford, I would normally take about four to five classes, if I’m lucky. While abroad, I only had  those two classes and the required language class. Finally, the faculty-in-residence did an amazing job using the city as the classroom. There’s really no better way to study the culture and language than to be immersed in it. 

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

Two things. One, the travel bug is a very real phenomenon and my time in Australia made me want travel more than ever! Two, I absolutely thrive in the outdoors. I loved every sunshine, sweat, mud, and sand-filled moment we spent in Australia. The hikes, snorkels, and mangrove treks were by far the best part of the experience.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad? 

I am ready for life after Stanford. Being outside the Stanford bubble and being able to explore two major cities in a foreign country allowed me to grow as a young adult and teach me what to expect in the real world. 

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

It would be trite to say the language, but honestly it’s something that takes a whole
quarter, and more, to really get used to. Just as the language instructors say, it really takes immersion to improve on a language. When I first settled in Kyoto, I almost tried avoiding to speak as much. However, I learned quickly that it’s not as easy to do. I’m
proud to say that after 148 days in Japan I can comfortably converse on an everyday basis. 

How was your experience living with local families? 

My host family consisted of an old couple in their seventies that had hosted a seven other students before, with four through the Bing Overseas Program. They had hosted more independent students in the past and so they tended to let me freely explore Kyoto on my own. The overall experience was positive and unforgettable.  

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

The Japanese people and language are notoriously known to be both ambiguous and implicative. Often I would find myself not entirely sure of what the speaker said and having to ask the speaker to repeat or clarify what he or she said. 

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Kyoto?

Eating three meals a day again. Not only was it healthy, but also allowed me to try more new foods. 

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Kyoto?

My host family had visited Vietnam some years before and being Vietnamese I was both surprised and excited. A conversation about Vietnamese food led to my host mom preparing Vietnamese spring rolls for dinner one night. I couldn’t stop laughing at how
unbelievable it was. 

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

 (ma)  a word that is loosely translated as space or time すみません (sumimasen)  the amount of times I had to apologize is innumerable 我慢 (gaman)  despite leaving the Stanford bubble, the struggle was still real
Google  because translate and maps were true bae abroad
神経病理 (shinkeibyōri)  neuropathology, the area of research that I explored during my summer internship

What was the host organization for your internship?
Over the summer, I did research in the neuropathology department at the University of Tokyo. 

What was your favorite food you had in Kyoto?

Melon pan (メロンパン), especially the one from this particular bakery by my host family’s home.

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

My travel wallet. Japan is not card-friendly so everyone had to get used to paying with cash. Moreover, the currency is coin-heavy and the lowest bill denomination is about $10. It was also useful for holding travel items since I did some traveling before and after Kyoto.  

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Kyoto?

took a class on traditional music of East Asia and discovered that traditional music isn’t that bad. However, I won’t be updating my playlists with it anytime soon.