Author: Rebecca Eckart, GED’13
It’s almost the end of September. I can’t believe how quickly time has passed and how much my life has changed since I arrived at Penn as a new student. It’s been a whirlwind: in less than a month I’ve moved into a new apartment, made new friends, begun a new course of study in the Graduate School of Education, and started exploring a new city.
I’m from Ohio, but I came to Penn from Japan. I worked there as an Assistant Language Teacher through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). I was placed in a small mountain village in Gunma Prefecture, about three hours outside of Tokyo. I went to Japan intending to stay and teach for just a couple of years, but I loved my school and the local community so much, I ended up staying for five.
During my fourth year there, I decided to pursue a Masters in Higher Education when I came back to the States. I considered a lot of different schools in the Midwest and on the East Coast, but I was looking for a place that had strong international connections in addition to a strong academic program. The large international student population and the renowned education department were just two of the factors that drew me to Penn.
I applied to Penn, was accepted, and decided to attend without once being able to step on campus. When I finally did make it to Philly, I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful and green the campus was. And I was also thrilled because I knew this was a place I could keep my experience in Japan a part of my life. I’ve been able to make some international friends and discuss education in their home countries. I’ve found a language exchange partner through Penn’s English Language Programs.
I’ve been to some Japanese restaurants that I’ve found while exploring the campus and University City. I’ve even found a Japanese supermarket where I can get some of my favorite foods. But perhaps most of all, I’ve found Penn to be a very welcoming community, which celebrates diversity and encourages communication and friendship across cultures.
My program at GSE is just nine months long. I know that the time will be gone before I know it, but I’m so excited to be a member of this community, especially my GSE cohort. This is a place I can share my past experiences and build my future.