Skip to Content
Study abroad in Japan expanded my understanding of hospitality
FIU students with Assistant Teaching Professor Fang Shu (far left), in front of the oldest temple in Tokyo, Sensō-ji

Study abroad in Japan expanded my understanding of hospitality

July 3, 2024 at 4:17pm

As more people achieve the opportunity to receive a higher education, universities are implementing more dynamic programs that allow students to learn and master their craft outside of the classroom. A perfect example of this are study abroad programs that's provide students the chance to receive full credit for classes that take place in a different country and for a smaller duration of time compared to a full 16-week semester. This year, I decided to join FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management’s journey in Japan for a hands-on learning experience of what the country has to offer.

The program spanned three cities and began in Tokyo, where we explored and met other students studying hospitality at Toyo University. Their hospitality and tourism students put together a brief presentation of the school’s history and its diverse programs. We were most fascinated by their pet tourism track, as pet cafes are an emerging trend and Japan features peculiar interactions with hedgehogs and owls, to name a few animals you can encounter in their cafes.

Japanese students join FIU Panthers for a group picture in front of Toyo University.

Japanese students join FIU Panthers at Toyo University

Our Tokyo drift continued as we visited the prestigious Grand Hyatt Hotel and participated in a showroom tour of the always-booked Presidential Suite, which features a private heated outdoor pool, full dining room and indoor zen garden. We ended our “suite” tour with the spa’s general manager, who introduced us to omotenashi - the Japanese practice of selfless service in hospitality and wholeheartedly looking after guests.

Omotenashi is not just a concept imbedded into the world of hospitality in Japan, but it is a lifestyle that people chose to follow every day. For example, in seeking directions on the street, I found that any stranger would go out of the way to ensure my understanding of the best and most direct route to my destination, sometimes even entering directions into my phone for me! Seeing this cultural custom first hand really changed my mindset about hospitality, recognizing that I too could incorporate it into my way of life. 

Of course, no trip to Japan would be complete without indulging in its world-famous cuisine. We delighted in a hands-on sushi-making class, and noted the simplicity of traditional Japanese sushi – usually comprising nothing but rice, fish and nori, along with some seasoning – whereas American-style sushi often has added high-fat ingredients, such as tempura, mayonnaise, avocado and cream cheese,

We also had the opportunity to create our own ramen from scratch at the Cup Noodle Museum. In the kitchen, we combined our dry ingredients with a little water to prepare a rough dough, and kneaded it until the desired texture was reached. After processing the dough through a sheeter to create the delicate noodle shapes that we all know and love, we had to steam the noodles for a couple minutes to partially cook the dough, and dry them so there wasn't any moisture in the packaging. The beautiful golden noodles fit perfectly in my custom packaging featuring Nissin's adorable chicken mascot and our FIU group name. 

Graduate students, Chabdieliz Gonzalez (left) and Daniella Ramos (right), showing off their freshly made ramen from the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama.Graduate students Chabdieliz Gonzalez (left) and Daniella Ramos, showing off their custom packaged ramen from the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama.

At the museum, we learned that the instant noodle idea was created out of the need for an affordable and easy-to-cook sustenance to fuel the development of Japan after World War II. It proved how innovative and entrepreneurial concepts can rise during the most difficult times and provide solutions that can stand the test of time.

The matcha capital of the world also happens to be in Japan, and the world’s fastest bullet train transported us to the ethereal farms of Kyoto, home to some of the world's finest matcha and green tea production. There we joined a traditional tea ceremony and mixed our own matcha tea. The activity helped bridge concepts from our FIU Chaplin School course, Tea, Coffee, and Non-alcoholic Beverages, particularly the idea of how such ceremony can bring people together and contribute to a sense of community.

Culinary delights were also abundant throughout the trip, especially in Osaka, where we enjoyed the vibrant street-food culture, savoring local delicacies such as kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), takoyaki (fried octopus), and my personal favorite daifuku (stuffed mochi) while capturing memories at the famous Glico Running Man billboard, a must-see tourist destination.

Students posing in front of the infamous Glico Running Man billboard. Students posing in front of the famous Glico Running Man billboard.

This immersive journey provided invaluable hands-on learning, allowing us to gain a profound understanding of global hospitality and tourism standards, while creating unforgettable memories.

Learn more about Ramos' trip on the FIU Hospitality YouTube Channel

Whatever your major, study abroad is available to you. Here's how to get started.

  1. Explore study abroad options that match your interests at FIU’s Education Abroad website.
  2. Contact your counselor to check your eligibility for the program.
  3. After clearing it with your advisor, visit the specific Education Abroad website for your chosen program and review the documents needed to register for the course.
  4. Submit your completed application to the Education Abroad website.