Two years ago, Penn State student Kayoko Suga visited the University Park campus for the first time.
Suga’s American excursion came almost three years into her tenure as a World Campus student in psychology, a largely solitary endeavor she was conducting from her home in Japan.
Still, after 16 hours on a plane it would have been wrong for her to go home empty-handed — and she didn’t. Suga left State College with her Penn State photo ID, the tangible symbol she had of her life as a student.
This weekend, Suga will again make the long journey to State College, this time with her eyes on a slightly bigger prize — her diploma.
After five years of virtual courses, Suga will celebrate her graduation alongside her fellow Nittany Lions.
“By being here I can experience this moment in reality,” Suga said.
In Japan, Suga works as a freelance translator and interpreter but was forced to cut back her hours in order to pursue her lifelong dream of a college education.
That’s where Penn State came in.
“Everybody said Penn State is a great school,” Suga said.
It didn’t hurt that the time change between Japan and State College was less severe than universities located on the West Coast.
Suga said that she has been pleased with the sincerity and open communication she has received from Penn State over the last five years and has appreciated the opportunity to both offer feedback and watch improvements develop in the school’s virtual education system.
Her quest for a diploma hasn’t always been easy — an illness slowed her progress — but Suga endured because she didn’t want to live with an incomplete feeling.
Now, Suga is relishing the opportunity to experience her final moments as a Penn State student outside of the virtual realm, with all of her five senses in play — even if there’s a long line.
On Thursday she was one of the many students waiting to have her photo taken in front of the Nittany Lion Shrine. Suga was aware that this weekend would be her final chance to soak in everything the University Park campus has to offer.
“It’s very meaningful for me to be here,” Suga said.
Before she can begin practicing psychology at home, Suga has to obtain a degree from a Japanese university. She’s looking forward to continuing her studies, but not right away.
“I need a break,” Suga said.
Maybe she can sleep on the plane ride home.