This page is meant to be my reflection on my time abroad and how it has changed me. Originally there was a category labeled Japan, and another named Study Abroad. Those categories still exist, but this page exist to wrap them all up together in a more coherent and seemingly formal manner. As this page will be updated constantly over time, I ask that you remain patient with me as I manage my time on these different projects. The post will be posted based on what I deemed as important. Once this is complete, this disclaimer will be deleted.
From August 28, 2015 to June 30, 2016, I resided in a small city called Mitaka (三鷹) in Osawa (大沢) Tokyo, Japan and attended International Christian University (ICU). Throughout my time here, I lived in ICU’s Global House dorm. The dorm has it’s positives and it’s negative’s, but my overall experience in Japan has been a good one, even if it has been mostly spent at ICU.
中級日本語 B (Intensive Japanese B)
While attending ICU, I mostly studied the Japanese language and culture in an academic setting. When I arrived, I tested into the Intensive B Japanese (IB) class. I was excited at first, because it seemed like a perfect opportunity for review, but three years of being taught Japanese in English did not prepare me for what was coming once class actually started.
On the first day of class, my Japanese listening abilities were being tested to the fullest extent. The professors were not going to take it slow. I simply had to catch up. Time passed, and eventually one professor told me that I need to improve my listening (this was told to me after a midterm exam, in case you were wondering). There were times when my friends (all foreign exchange students like myself) and I longed for English, just to get a break from all of our daily studies.
Intensive B opened me up to a whole new world of Japanese study. Active learning (I’m a passive learner). This may seem like complaining, but it’s quite the opposite. This complete change in pace, allowed me to view my time in Japan differently. I no longer viewed class as class, and my time out as my time out. Now, everything was class. Every method of studying the language was at my disposal, and it all dawned on me with the Intensive B Japanese class.
From left: Calla, Anna, Taylor, Toyo, Yuki, Rumi
I mentioned my friends. In this small Japanese class of 11, my friends and I became really close. We became a family. We helped each other through the hard times, and supported each other through the fun times. Without this group of individuals, I would not have been able to stay as sane as I did. Of course, I made other friends during my time here, but majority of my time was spent with this group. We all learned differently, but when combined together, we managed to find a way that worked for all of us. My new family became my solidarity during my time in Japan.
中級日本語 C (Intensive Japanese C)
After the first trimester at ICU, I moved on to Intensive Japanese C (IC). I strolled into the classroom thinking I was prepared for this battle. I went through IB right? How much harder could this class be if it’s intensive?
Intensive C was entirely different from IB. Intensive B was considered a transitional period. Getting acclimated to the Japanese intensive educational system. The first day of IC, we were told exactly what was expected of us. All Japanese, no English. Now, I know what you’re thinking.
“Didn’t you speak only Japanese in Intensive B?”
Yes and no. If it was apparent that we weren’t able to keep up, then the teacher would slow down, or occasionally say a word or two in English. In this class, she simply repeated the Japanese phrase until we got it. This made for a rather interesting time learning academic Japanese. We were no longer just learning simple Japanese, we were learning how to write like Japanese academics. Which words were more formal, which particles fit better where, etc.
We were learning how to present in Japanese. If you know me personally, I love public speaking. I’m one of the few weirdo people that get enjoyment out of being in front of groups of people. Let. Me. Tell. You. Presenting in a language you aren’t fluent in is very nerve racking. That was the first time I ever felt like I was going to die of nervousness. To add to all of that, IC had way more daily work in comparison to IB, and the work was obviously harder.
Long story short, I was not able to keep up. By the end of the trimester, I was too far behind. So, I did what any failing student does; go to office hours way too late in the semester.
日本語 5 (Japanese 5)
As I mentioned, Intensive Japanese C was harder than I anticipated, leading me to fail the class. This was a hard hitter for me. I have never failed a single class in my entire life, up to this point. It took a trip to another country, and my 16th year of schooling to fail my first class. I’ve come close before, but I always managed to pull my grades out of the gutter through hard work, and very long, sleepless nights.
This method doesn’t work with a foreign language. In comparison to a language in which I’m fluent, takes more time, dedication and practice to pull grades from the gutter. My dedication was on point, but my time was cut short, or more accurately, I mismanaged my time. However, there was a light in this dark tunnel. I was given the option of retaking IC, or taking standard Japanese 5 (J5), to work at a pace that may work better for me and my comprehension. I chose to take Japanese 5.
“Why didn’t you retake Intensive C?”
I’m sure that’s the question going through your head right now, and I have a very valid answer. During my last trimester in Japan, I wanted to focus a bit more on enjoying my time in Japan with the friends I made, not spend all of it stressing out about school even though I was there for school).
Okay, not as valid as some may think, but you have to keep in mind that I was there to be a student as much as a tourist. It was actually recommended that we go see the sights and be tourists. Towards the end of IB, I got a girlfriend, more of my friends wanted to do things together, and I wanted to make fun memories for my last few months in Japan.
So, I chose J5 to give myself a mental break, and to maximize my extra time. That’s not to say that J5 wasn’t challenging, but it definitely felt good to take everything at a more controlled pace this time around. I felt more comfortable writing essays, speaking, and overall blending into Japan as much as I could.
英会話の相手(English Conversation Partner)
For those of you that know me, you know that I do not like being still for an extended period of time. Before coming to Japan, I was always working. I picked up any shift that I could. Well, that all changed when I moved to Japan. While it felt great to not work, it also felt like something was missing. I felt unfulfilled. So I went and got a work visa. After I got permission to work, I went on Craigslist; the Japanese craigslist (don’t worry, it’s much safer than the American one).
After careful searching and screen, I applied for an English conversation partner position with a company called Flatmate in Nakameguro. It was about an hour train ride from my dorm, but it was well worth the travel. I made lifetime friends that, even though I don’t always speak with them, know that I will always cherish them.
I learned how to be more patient while teaching, and while learning myself. While I had already known about speaking slower in English, working at Flatmate really helped me improve my ability to work with different levels of proficiency.