As he descended the stairs, Tokyo's sounds gave way to the pounding underground music scene beneath Japan's famously crowded sidewalks. Around him Indie punk groups played—their music filling the space. Nathaniel "Natty" Watson, c'18, found himself laughing with his new Japanese friends, watching a guitarist shred on stage, and thinking in awe "and all of this is for school credit."
Watson chose to spend a year studying at Sophia University in Tokyo. An East Asian languages and cultures major, he not only studied Japanese abroad but also combined his passion for music as he was immersed in the language. While there, he connected with the music scene, where he networked for his own recording label. He went to dozens of Japanese concerts and then brought Japanese bands to the US to tour with him.
A Tulsa native, Watson arrived at KU because of the stellar East Asian Languages and Cultures faculty—with a dream to study abroad. And with over 60 percent of Honors students studying abroad, it seemed like the right fit. He did not know, however, that he could get Honors credit for this adventure— nor did he realize he could combine it with his love of alternative music. "That was really great," said Watson. "I got school credit to explore my future career and do what I love.”
Advice for students going abroad? “Start really early on the paperwork,” Watson said. "There may also be things you need to be ready to do on the other end when you arrive, so be prepared for that." But overall, his biggest piece of advice? “Try and shirk your anxiety about adapting to culture. You’ll be fine. Don’t go abroad if you’re not willing to be open minded, [but] DO go abroad if you wanna just have generally dope adventures!” Watson said with a laugh. He credited his experiences with expanding his mind and making him a more empathetic person.
“It’s kinda cheesy,” he admitted, “but it’s true. [Going abroad] is a surreal and pretty magical feeling. And coping with foreign societies while living on your own makes things feel very approachable. It gives an independence.”