Student Spotlight: Sabai Hartwiger

Sabai Hartwiger, a philosophy major from Asheville, recently returned from a year of life in Japan. We spoke with him about his time in Japan, the scholarships he received that helped him make it happen, and how it has influenced his life.

Sabai participated in a direct exchange program with Okayama University, where he studied the Japanese language, helping fulfill requirements for his Japanese minor. One aspect of living in Japan that he especially loved was that he was constantly practicing Japanese, whether it was in the classroom, at language exchange events in cafes, or just ordering coffee at Starbucks. He also had ample opportunities to learn about Japanese culture firsthand, especially by attending kabuki theater and banraku, a traditional puppet show. An unexpected aspect of his time in Japan was that he also connected with people from many different countries, not just Japan. Before going, he had not anticipated befriending students from France, Germany and other countries who were also studying in Okayama; now he is already planning the next meeting with these friends.

One thing that made this incredible experience possible for Sabai was the scholarships that helped fund his year abroad. He received a scholarship from App State’s Office of International Education and Development, as well as the Freeman Award for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) and Gilman scholarships. Both scholarships provide funding to students with a demonstrated financial need who wish to pursue education abroad. In the case of the Gilman Scholarship, Sabai was able to secure additional funding beyond the normal amount, because Japanese qualifies as a “critical need language.” Sabai says that he did not find the application process for these scholarships terribly daunting, though it did take some time to write out his essays.  The office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships at Appalachian State is available to help students as they apply to these scholarships, among others. Students can make an appointment with an advisor through the NCS website and get answers to questions or assistance on essay writing.

One key takeaway from Sabai’s time in Japan is that language learning no longer feels like a chore. Back at App State, he now feels an “immense yearning for learning.” He sees school and leisure time differently now and is eager to learn new things in a way different from before studying abroad. “This feeling doesn’t die out,” he explained. “My experience is fully integrated with my life.”

Sabai’s advice to other students is simple: studying abroad is worth it. “Who knows if you’ll have these opportunities after graduating?” App State has so many resources and people who want to help students achieve their educational goals, so students simply need to seize the opportunities in front of them.


About Nationally Competitive Scholarships

Nationally Competitive Scholarships (NCS) works with the Appalachian community to recruit and support students for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, including those that support research, teaching and critical language learning. This is achieved with outreach, mentorship and advising throughout the entire application and selection process. NCS is committed to helping undergraduate and graduate students find ways to connect their Appalachian education to their future endeavors through scholarship opportunities. Learn more at

About the Office of International Education and Development

The OIED is responsible for spearheading the internationalization efforts at Appalachian. The internationalization mission of Appalachian is to develop awareness, knowledge, appreciation and respect of cultural differences in both domestic and international contexts in its students, faculty, staff and the surrounding communities. The university is also dedicated to creating a campus environment that builds the theoretical and practical skills needed to interact effectively in a global society. Learn more at

Compiled and Written by James Holden
October 19th, 2023
Boone, N.C.

Sabai Hartwiger
Published: Oct 19, 2023 1:15pm