Saturday, January 24, 2015

The First Semester

More than 3 years ago, I went on my journey in Japan. . .

. . . And today, I would like to write about the end.

Bur first, let me take you down my memory road (it may take a while).

The first 6 months were about getting used to living in a new place and enjoying new experiences.  

The Classes That Constrained Me . . . and Set Me Free

Nanzan University Sign

I remember I had a terrible time getting used to a new teaching style.  My Japanese teachers were very strict about the quality of our grammar homework.  When I wrote creative sentences to illustrate what I learned, I would be docked points for errors.  Thus, I felt constrained to only give generic answers that I knew were dull but error-free.

Japanese Fieldwork Research Method's class 2011

However, there was a class that gave me complete control of my studies.  It was the one class that I felt was no different than a class at the Ohio State University.  "Japanese Fieldwork Research Methods" allowed students to choose a cultural topic to study and create a presentation of.  I studied Japanese Sign Language (JSL), mainly because OSU's Japanese textbook is called JSL for Japanese, the Spoken Language.  Over the course of the semester I consumed as much knowledge as I could about the Japanese deaf society and even took an introductory course in JSL at Nanzan's extension college.  I began attending a JSL circle (a club) in the city and interviewed one of the deaf members.  That gave me a unique insider's look into the lives of Japanese deaf people.  I wish I could talk more about it, but it would take an entire essay to go over that experience (perhaps in my new blog?)

Overall, the classes there were challenging.  Even though the classes weren't nearly as hard as a regular class, I couldn't slack off.  It helped that my grades would directly transfer, but that doesn't mean I enjoyed that part of my experience.  I did get to study topics that I would've never been able to study at OSU though, which made all my efforts worth it, in my opinion.

The People Who Changed Me

Yamazato Family Fall 2011

The people I met during my first semester also shaped my entire experience.  I met friends I'm still in contact with today.  There were so many fun times with both Japanese and International students.  What struck me was how easily it was to talk with my international friends, especially the people in my dorm (called affectionately, Yamazato).  Although we came from all over the world (France, Sweden, Denmark, China, Canada, Korea, USA, Japan), we could talk and hang out together without going crazy!  Our dorm meetings always went smoothly (even when we shamed one dorm-mate for leaving trash everywhere).  Everyone had their unusual quirks too, something that made them stand out.  There was one girl who loves to sing Japanese songs and has a beautiful voice.  One guy joined the triathlon circle and was known for being the adventurous type.  Another student was polite and softspoken, but was known for eating bento meals all the time.  We all had our unusual parts, but I think those differences is what made living at Yamazato fun.  In the truest of essence, we were a family.
Saho and me inside Sakae Station

I felt particularly blessed with individual Japanese students who invited me to hang out with them.  They treated me no differently than a normal friend.  Of course we talked about cultural differences and even spoke in English at times, but we also went shopping, asked each other for opinions about various things and even sought advice from each other.  When I first started my journey into Japan, I didn't believe I could become close to many Japanese students.  I thought I wouldn't be able to have deep conversations with them or share any personal feelings with them.  Yet the Japanese people I met always showed me patience and love and always showed an interest in who I was, not just where I came from.

So In Conclusion

Inuyama Castle

My first semester in Japan is one of my favorite memories of my life.  I had to adjust to a Japanese lifestyle, but I was also immersed into a global community.  There were some difficult times that first semester (learning to be a good roommate, an open-minded friend and a humble student), but they helped shape me into the person I am today.

The people I met that first semester, I will never forget.  Even though I lost contact with many people I met back then, I'll never forget them.  My eyes will never forget the views I saw at the different temples, castles and other scenic areas.  My taste buds will never forget my friend Saho's mother's home cooked feast.  As hard as I try, I won't forget the rigorous classes my Japanese teachers, which ultimately helped me have deeper conversations with locals.  All of these experiences made the first half of my journey one of the greatest times of my life.

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