Dante Gil Rivas

Photo of Dante Gil Rivas in Kobe, Japan visiting the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
"The locals were so friendly! I have never seen that many people willing to go out of their way to help you."

Meet Dante

In the seventh grade, Dante did an art project that required him to draw a cityscape in two-point perspective. By the end of the project, it was one of his favorite projects he had ever done. At the time, he didn’t know that he would love architecture until he hit sophomore year in high school, when he had to do another two-point perspective drawing. To confirm that he wanted to do architecture, he did a summer program in his junior year of high school at the University of Oregon for a month. At the end of the program, he knew architecture is what I enjoyed. Dante hopes to be able to focus on sustainable designs not only for homes but new ideas on how sustainability and renewability can be redesigned. His favorite thing about being in the School of Architecture is how different architecture is from other majors. All of [the students] are constantly working in studio. We are like a little family.


Major: Architecture
Class Standing: Senior
Learn more: Learn more about Dante on the College of Arts + Architecture page here


Program Name: Japan: Tokyo Studio Architecture
Program Type: Freestanding Faculty-Led
Semester Abroad: Summer 2019


Dante received the following scholarship to help fund his study abroad program:

OEA Scholarship (Halton)

Dante's Experience Abroad

Why did you choose the location you studied abroad in?

"My decision to travel to Tokyo, Japan and visit neighboring cities was to look at how Japan’s architecture works to accommodate the density of people. As the population continues to grow, it will be the architects who design new ways of living. I also wanted to see how Japan’s architecture differentiates from Charlotte as Japan faces natural disasters that we don’t, such as earthquakes. 

The architecture is incredible in Tokyo and Japan in general but also the country doesn’t have much space. Not having much space means that things are smaller like the kitchen or living room of a house or the inside of a restaurant or hotel. You won’t find single story buildings as that would be a waste of space. Tokyo is filled with nothing but tall buildings. The size of Tokyo is incredible. Tokyo is one of the most populated cities in the world so there will be many people walking around. Being in the city makes you feel small as you are surrounded by many people and towering buildings. Tokyo is divided into neighborhoods and the neighborhood I stayed at is called Kita-Sando. "


Describe the types of food that are common in the host city or country. 

"The food that is common to find is ramen and curry in my experience. I loved to go out to brunch and get the pancakes. They are not like your pancakes in the United States. These pancakes are thick and fluffy and come with a variety of toppings. I tried everything from the food to the drinks in the vending machines, which is very common in Japan. You will literally find vending machines everywhere in Japan. Another restaurant I would recommend is Ichiran Ramen. Instead of your traditional opened restaurant, it is for a single person and you sit in this booth sheltered from the people beside you. The idea is that they want you to focus on eating and the flavor rather than talking with people. "

Describe some of the cultural Differences you encountered.

"The difference in culture are the unspoken rules. For example: Face masks. For those who are sick or feeling ill in Japan you will see many people walk around with face masks on. The idea is to prevent from others getting sick. Next is when in a restaurant. There are these baskets for your backpacks, so they don’t touch the floor. The idea is to keep your personal items away from the floor to prevent germs. When on a train it is rude if you talk on the phone. If you have a call to make or answer, wait till you are outside the subway. I wouldn’t say I struggled with these unspoken rules, but I quickly adapted to it and appreciated the purpose behind them. After a few days, these rules became like second nature to me. "

How would you describe the locals in the host city? 

"The locals were so friendly! I have never seen that many people willing to go out of their way to help you. In one incident a lady missed her train so she could guide my friend and I to the correct platform and tell us how to get to our location. As I am a person of color, at night I would go out and see some people do a double take to stare at me as they didn’t expect someone like me to wander around. The faculty-led program I did gave us the opportunity to visit a university and get to speak with the students. From there we decided to stay in contact with each other through Instagram as it more common for the locals to have Instagram than Snapchat in my personal experience."

Describe the academic environment abroad.

"The class setting was the city for the courses I took. We would travel all across Tokyo and Japan and see the beautiful architecture. Twice a week we did meet in a building to discuss ideas and show our progress on our projects. When we weren’t meeting in this room, the professor would schedule café meet ups. We would then need to travel to the location and be ready to present our work in a one-on-one conversation. The differences when it came to the academic environment was the setting. We weren’t always in a classroom, as the professor really wanted us to see the architecture. Since this was the layout, I enjoyed both courses I took. Besides traveling, we did have to design a building according to the program and present it final day to a board of architecture firms and university professors."

What part of your experience made the greatest impact on you?

"Two parts of this trip made the biggest impact on me. One was seeing what my parents went through being immigrants. As I arrived, I knew nobody and felt like the outsider. Technology was on my side as I had Google Translate, but remembering the year my parents came here, they didn’t have the same technology. I did enjoy the awkward encounters of trying to communicate to someone else; it was my favorite part of the trip. The second part is seeing the architecture of Japan and knowing what is possible. It was in Japan that I was able to physically see these beautiful buildings."

In your opinion, why should students study abroad?

"I am now an advocate for studying abroad and think that every student should do it. Traveling abroad gave me the opportunity to see a new culture, new lifestyle, and to immerse myself in it. There is nothing more amazing than being immersed in a different culture. It makes you see how different we all are, but also similar. You begin to appreciate the culture of others. The experience of being in a new country and learning the culture of others are something you could never fully grasp by reading about it. I knew of Japan and little information about the country and people, but it wasn’t until I saw it with my own eyes and lived there that I could see their world. "

OEA Scholarship Recipient