Alejandra visits the Temple in Kobe, Japan

Alejandra visits the Temple in Kobe, Japan

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Alejandra Aguilar Co-ops at Osaka, Japan

by Elizabeth AvelarSep 10, 2012

A true shinning star and a warm spirit, MEP Bioengineering student Alejandra Aguilar '13 decided to take the opportunity of a life time. "There are two main reasons I came to Japan. The first, I always wanted to study abroad, but studying abroad didn't fit well with my schedule of classes...the International Co-op Program was the answer! I think it's so amazing that I could combine my co-op with an international experience. The second reason, is that I've always lived at home and have been very dependent of my family. I really wanted to experience what it's like to be completely on my own."

Before she could board a plane, Aguilar took part in a very intensive language and cultural training program for a month and a half. "I've found that Japanese people are super patient with foreigners like myself when it comes to speaking Japanese. I heavily use my mini Japanese-English dictionary when I go out. All my co-workers know my mini-dictionary and often times, they'll use it themselves to try to explain something to me."

Residing in Osaka, Japan Aguilar is doing her Co-op for Japan Solderless Terminals (JST). She is currently working for the Engineering center in Research and Development.  She is able to  solder connectors onto circuit boards  in order to create samples for customers. She is also responsible for performing electrical and mechanical testing in addition to using SolidWorks to create prototypes of different connectors.

Aguilar shares that her favorite part of the trip is exploring on the weekends, "I leave my apartment [on the weekdays] at 7:20am to get to work by 9am, by the time I get home it's about 7:30pm. So my exploring happens on the weekends." Immersing herself in the culture has made her really enjoy her stay. "Everything is so much smaller compared to America-cars, food portions, doorways." Even routine features have caught her attention "Mini designated areas for shoes...there are also restroom slippers you wear only in the restroom...for sanitary reasons so we don't spread 'bathroom floor' throughout the apartment."

Perhaps one of the most exciting features Aguilar found was the dedication Japanese women, of all ages, have to fashion. "Japanese girls are some of the best dressed girls I have ever seen in my life...all of them [Japanese girls] wear heels everywhere and walk like pros." Aguilar's interest in the Japanese culture will definitely bring her back, she says. When she returns to the US in December 2012, she plans to take more Japanese courses in order to improve her conversational abilities.

In the future, she hopes to return to Japan after graduation. In addition to being a great experience for her career, she also says it has been a life altering experience in many ways. "My lifestyle. I've always lived at home with my parents. I never had to worry about grocery shopping, laundry, or making meals, even if I knew how to do these things. So being here, I had to take care of myself."  She also mentions that the experience has made her appreciate her family a lot more. Though she has missed weddings and family gatherings, Aguilar still feels the trip was worth it. "Living in a new country on my own has greatly changed me and helped me improve my independence. I love it here!"