Trenton Hasser

Hometown: Earl Park, IN 
College: Polytechnic Institute
Major: Building Construction Management Technology

Being from a small rural-Indiana farming community, I did not have many early experiences of life outside of the Midwest. If it was not for the internet and television, I’m not sure I would have been entirely convinced that corn and bean fields did not cover the globe. The monotony of the farmland landscape was what first convinced me I would not be settling down in the Midwest. To seek out new experiences, I chose to follow in my Grandfather’s footsteps and join the U.S. Army. In 2014, I was honorably discharged, and I began studying Construction Management (CM) at Purdue as a non-traditional student. I am working toward a career as a Project Manager (PM) in which I will be responsible for running construction projects. As a final step to graduation in August, I intend to study abroad for 6 weeks in Japan during summer 2019.

Following graduation in August, I will begin my career in the construction industry with an electrical contractor headquartered within Seattle. I aspire to bring innovative approaches and ideas to the table. Innovation stems from multi-faceted experiences that can inspire insight into alternative ways of doing things. Expanding my construction knowledge beyond the processes within the United States, and what I’ve learned at Purdue University, will help me reach that goal.

During the study abroad course, The Japanese Lived Experience, I will be in major cities such as Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka, giving me the chance to observe Japanese architecture, their high-rise structures, and construction projects that are underway. The major cities in the islands of Japan have a key disadvantage, that they also share with Seattle; a lack of open space. Construction projects do not have the option to build outward, but instead, upward. Within Tokyo, the population density is approximately 16,000 per square mile. Comparatively, Seattle is half that, at about 8,000 per square mile, but it is also the nation’s fastest growing city. The seaport region Seattle is situated in, prevents the outward expansion of construction, as the population increases. So, being able to observe how major cities within Japan have handled construction projects within a restricted space, will be an informative experience. As I move through my career, I expect the opportunity to channel my knowledge gained in Japan, to provide insightful opinions that will help improve future construction projects.

Along with observing the buildings of Japan, I will be exposed to their transportation infrastructure. Japan is famous for its state-of-the-art bullet trains that can move you across the country at nearly 200 miles per hour. Seattle’s public transit is among the best in the United States, but it is leaps and bounds behind the integrated transportation systems that connect Japan. During my time abroad, the trains will be our primary means of transportation. So, I will have ample time to draw comparisons between the public infrastructure of Japan, Seattle, and the United States in general. The electrical contractor I will be working for also has their hand in all types of projects like highway transit, street cars, and shuttle systems, around the Seattle area. So, experiencing the infrastructure within Japan will give me an informative opinion in the likely case I work on a public transportation construction project. 

The 12 credit-hour study abroad course focuses primarily on observing the traditional and modern culture of Japan and drawing comparisons to our own culture. Prior to being accepted for this study abroad, it was required to enroll in Intercultural Development – Japan. This upper tier prerequisite introduces Japanese culture, while also having students introspectively examine their own culture and explain it to their peers that will accompany them overseas. While we are in Japan, the course does not utilize a classroom setting, but instead takes the advantage of the geographical area for teaching moments. Our course work is in the form of journal entries that we create through independent study. I chose the full 6-week course, that covers the entirety of southern and northern Japan, because it incorporates the most major cities. To me, culture encompasses all aspects of what makes everyone unique. That includes the structures and infrastructures that set different societies apart. The program itinerary moves us around the islands of Japan from major cities, to rural towns, and as far as the Japanese Alps. I can expect to face a wide range of social situations, pertinent to Japan’s variety of regional cultural-norms, as I progress through this 6-week course. This program will provide me an all-encompassing understanding of the regional cultures, while also providing stimulating changes in landscape. I expect my engagement to be at full capacity during the duration of this course, as I experienced while deployed abroad.

During my time in the service, I was deployed to Djibouti, Africa and experienced interculturalism for the first time in my life. As a white American person in Africa, I was part of the minority ethnic group and it challenged my idea of what “normal” was. I no longer was just another face in the crowd, but instead, an outlier that stuck out like a sore thumb. Most of my time in Djibouti was spent performing security near an airfield and at a naval port. Almost every day, I interacted with locals and various military members from the European and Asian nations that have a presence in the Horn of Africa. Overcoming language barriers and adapting for cultural norms became a daily part of my security duties. That challenge of cultural awareness intrigued me and made everyday something new and interesting. I hope to use these same cultural skills while in Japan.

Japan is a modern nation, that also follows a unique set of traditions, and the program is focused on instilling cultural mindfulness, reflecting on the aspects of our own culture, and using those comparisons to identify our own inherent biases and grow our cultural intelligence. In essence, a goal-oriented version of what I had experienced in Africa. My overall goal for my time in Japan is to continue improving upon my cultural intelligence. The group of students I am going with is very diverse in ethnicity, nationality, and fields of study. From my experiences in the military and throughout college, I have realized that the best way to gain understanding and empathy for others is by interacting with a diverse group of people. I want to expand my world view beyond my military experience so, that I can bring a diverse and considerate outlook to my work, as well as in my personal life.

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