Student Voice: Finding Art in Akita-Kayla Villareal, University of Mary Washington, U.S.A.

AIU has restarted hosting international exchange students for the first time in two years starting from the Spring 2022 semester. Student Voice introduces what international exchange students have learned and experienced at AIU and in Akita.

Here is a message from Ms. Kayla Villareal.

Ms. Kayla Villareal


My name is Kayla Villareal. I am an American exchange student from the University of Mary Washington. I study art at my home university. At AIU, I am currently taking Tea Ceremony, Ikebana (flower arrangement), and Japanese language courses. In this article, I will be talking about how I incorporate art into my daily life here in Akita.

It’s behind Sakura Village(Student Apartment).


As an artist, I enjoy my Traditional Japanese Arts classes immensely. I feel lucky to be able to learn about an art form that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to study in America. My home school offers many art classes, such as ceramics, painting, and sculpture, but I feel classes such as Ikebana have taught me not only how to create art from a different viewpoint, but also the history behind the art itself. Thanks to these classes, I now understand how traditional arts such as Tea Ceremony were originally practiced by the warrior class or how Ikebana was an activity used in bridal training. Additionally, I can now explain why certain traditions affect how the arts are practiced in modern day.

One of my favorite classes has been Ikebana. The class content has been exceptionally in-depth about the origins of flower arrangement. Did you know there are different occasions when only certain flowers should be used? For example, chabana (tea flowers) are used for tea ceremonies, since the scent of these flowers are weak and do not distract from the smell of tea and sweets. Every Wednesday is our practice day where we create our own arrangements using what we have learned. Here is my favorite arrangement I’ve made.

Favorite arrangement


The nature in Akita always inspires me to incorporate plants in my own art. I find myself drawing flowers and trees more often than when I was in America. Compared to where I live in the US, the trees always look fuller and fluffier, so I’ve practiced drawing the plants I see around me. On my walks around campus, the sky and clouds inspire me as well. Having a short moment to appreciate the beauty of Akita’s scenery always puts me in a good mood. When the weather is especially nice and I have lots of free time, I find a quiet place on campus to draw. Akita has been such an oasis for creativity, I’m glad I have the opportunity to call AIU home.

Drawing by Ms. Kayla Villareal


From the Center for International Affairs

It is wonderful that Kayla takes inspiration from Akita’s nature and incorporates it into her art! AIU’s campus is a great place to enjoy cherry blossoms in spring, fresh greenery in summer, autumn leaves in fall, and snowy landscapes in winter. We hope Kayla continues to take pleasure in the beauty of each of the four seasons and deepens her knowledge of traditional Japanese art.