When I Studied in Japan

Study In Japan

Recently I’ve read not just one but two awesome posts about people who studied abroad – the first from the wonderful Rhyme and Ribbons, and the other by the lovely Darling Magazine. Both posts have great insights and advice for those studying abroad – but I thought I’d throw my experience into the mix as well, as I studied in Japan.

I’d been studying Japanese since I was 16 – because I really REALLY wanted Japanese friends. I had this amazing idea of going to live there, when everyone would want to be my friend and that I would live in this heaven of happiness. This was fueled as well by the month-long trip I took when I was 17 with my Japanese class, where it really was everything I had dreamt of – everyone was happy to see us, the food was amazing and it was just so much fun.

I got to study in Japan in my third year (out of four) at uni. The UK uni I went to was Liverpool John Moores and we had sister schools all over Japan. I really wanted to go to Fukuoka or Kurume to be near the classmate I was dating at the time but I ended up being sent to Kinjo Gakuin University in Nagoya. I REALLY didn’t want to go there – it was a GIRLS university (which don’t exist in the UK) and what’s more, it’s a Christian university (which also doesn’t exist in the UK). As the only girl in my Liverpool class, I was obliged to go.

I needn’t have worried – I had THE BEST YEAR and I still consider to be one of the best years I’ve lived so far.

Nagoya is a port city between Osaka and Tokyo; a very exciting place, without being dauntingly big. It’s famous for pork schnitzel with thick miso sauce, designer-obsessed young women with hair set into flowing curls, and the thick Nagoyan accent. Kinjo Gakuin University is a relatively famous university (and there are SO many universities in Japan – even in Nagoya there seemed to be a college at every tube stop) but is famous for being a training ground for rich young women who want to marry well. I affectionately called it the Wife Machine.

takoyaki

There were about 8 or so Korean exchange students, 2 Chinese, 2 French, 1 Thai and 1 Aussie. We all got on really well, and I made particularly good friends with the Korean girls. After being dumped in the second week by that guy from my class, I set out to go back to the UK better than him in every way, and studied Japanese SO VERY HARD all the time – preferring to speak with people who didn’t know English and therefore could only speak Japanese with. In the first semester I studied in the very easy Japanese classes with the French and Aussie girls, but after my hard work I was allowed to study with the Koreans and Chinese in the second year – which was ridiculously challenging but stretched me the way I wanted to be stretched. (Side note: Chinese writing is somewhat similar to Japanese; they share an alphabet. Korean is very similar gramatically to Japanese. So it is usually much easier for these to learn Japanese than it is for us Westerners).

I also attended classes meant for regular Japanese students – the ones I remember were “teaching small children” which was really fun with an American male teacher called Matthew, and a translation class with LOADS of students. It was really challening, and each week one student would be chosen to read a section of the translaton homework, with a mic in hand. I remember when it was my turn I studied so hard because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of the Japanese students. This was also the class which I apparently shared with the pop sensation Nishino Kana, though I didn’t know her.

purikura

The best thing about the year was being able to be free in Japan, to explore and walk around and interact with people, just like I had wanted to all along. The butterflies that I got when I tried something new were amazing, and from humble beginnings where it took me over 2 hours to get a phone (and so took a photo – the first one in this post – to remember the eventual success) to being able to do pretty much whatever I wanted to in Japanese.

The downside was that I had a terrible time over Christmas – my first one away from my family. Christmas day was a normal working day in Japan and while I had the day off of uni (the good thing about it being a Christian uni!) it upset me to see all the businessmen walking to work in their suits when they could have been spending time with their families. I felt lousy the whole day, but went to the supermarket in the afternoon and I remember really clearly a Japanese couple stopping me and wishing me Merry Christmas. I thanked them but tears welled up afterwards – it was such a nice and welcome gesture.

I found it really hard to make friends with the regular Japanese students – especially as they would often want to speak in English when I so desperately wanting nothing other than Japanese. These girls were richer than I could ever imagine to be, and always had the latest Louis Vuitton handbags. I learnt all about designer brands that year – I’d never even considered them before I went.

Japan Exchange

It was such a magical year in which I learnt so much. I lived on next to no money, tried everything that came to me, and made some amazing friends for life. I really wish more people had the chance to study abroad as I think it really helps you grow as a person.

I think there are a few others out there who have studied abroad, so please do share your top memories and advice in the comments!

 

Comments

  1. I wish I would have studied abroad, I feel like I really missed out on something by not taking the opportunity to do so. I’ve almost considered applying to teach English in Japan or Korea like my best friend did after college, I visited her for a month in South Korea and LOVED IT!! Although, now it feels like I have too much responsibility (a job, a cat, and all that) to just go somewhere new for a whole year.
    Jess recently posted…Books for Breakfast #104My Profile

  2. I loved reading this! I never studied abroad because I couldn’t afford it, so it was wonderful reading about your experience! I only know English and hardly any Italian, so I always wanted to study in England, which of course you would find boring haha! I still would love to live and work in London (or just outside of it) for six months to a year, but I’ve never been very spontaneous lol!
    ~Sara
    Sara Strauss recently posted…Books For Bad Ass Lady TypesMy Profile

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