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CSULB Master student experiences the chance of a lifetime on fully-funded exchange program to study culture in Japan

Talin Tanielian, was one of 25 chosen to explore life in this Asian country.

Talin Tanielian was one of 25 students from around the country chosen for a travel program in Japan to study the culture and art. She was chosen for her art pieces that were created using inspiration from her studies of Japanese culture, like the painting above.

Courtesy of Talin Tanielian's Instagram

Talin Tanielian was one of 25 students from around the country chosen for a travel program in Japan to study the culture and art. She was chosen for her art pieces that were created using inspiration from her studies of Japanese culture, like the painting above.

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Every student dreams about an overseas journey during their college career, studying the subject they love and diving into a new culture. Funding these trips yourself can be difficult, but having a fully-funded adventure is even more of a rare phenomenon.

Cal State Long Beach MFA student Talin Tanielian is one of the lucky ones whose life changed when she experienced this journey come true.

Tanielian was chosen for a Japanese exchange program dedicated to promote mutual understandings of culture beyond the borders. The program, KAKEHASHI Project, is fully funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and was looking for a student interested in Japanese culture.

Tanielian has shown this interest through a number of her pieces in her years studying at CSULB. For an art project last year, she created illustrations from Japanese words that had no literal meaning when translated to English.

“I tried to emulate the beauty of these words into images that the viewer could get lost in,” Tanielian said.

Noticing her interest in Japanese culture, her professors Aubry Mintz and Mark Michelon nominated Tanielian when the Japanese International Cooperation Center contacted the school about the exchange opportunity. After being picked, she joined 24 other college students from all over the United States participating in the project.

In January, she and the other chosen students traveled to multiple large cities in Japan including Tokyo, Kyoto and Takashima.

They visited important landmarks including temples and shrines and even explored the Onsen, or traditional Japanese bath houses.

The group also was able to participate in several workshops that explored the depths of Japanese culture such as mochi making, Japanese calligraphy and sake tasting.

During some of their time in Japan, those participating in the program each stayed with a host family to get a first-person experience of life in the country. Students brought gifts from their hometowns, known as omiyage, for the host families and during their stay they interacted in ways like doing household chores with their host parents.

“Our host family taught us so much about humility, kindness and generosity, all by doing the simplest of tasks,” Tanielian said. “Despite there being a very strong language barrier, we all got emotional when we had to part ways.”

The students were also able to get involved with Kyoto Seiko University, a school where students learn to draw manga, which are popular comics in Japanese pop culture.

She noticed small differences in the schools, including the cheap price of the lunches provided by school administration.

“It was so cool to see that administrators were thinking of the wellbeing of their students rather than the cost,” Tanielian said.

While at the school, those participating in the project spoke with students attending the university. This one-on-one time allowed both parties to learn about the cultural and artistic differences between the two. Tanielian learned about how the Japanese students wanted to shed awareness on the struggles facing the LGBTQ community which is still frowned upon in Japanese culture.

Tanielian was moved by her visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine where she and her fellow participants learned about the Japanese gods and traditions.

“Walking through the shrine was so peaceful,” Tanielian said. “I have never felt more present or at peace in a place in my life.”

Tanielian kept a vlog of her time overseas and said she left Japan with a new insight and new friends.

“I went in with no expectations and came out with absolutely no disappointments,” Tanielian said. “I got to live out a fairy tale in real life.”

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