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Favorite Course: Japanese Art History
Highlight: Relaxing in an authentic onsen (public bath/hot springs).
Favorite Dish: Tonkatsu with rice and cabbage!
Next Destination: Europe
What was a typical day like for you while abroad?
The typical day was, of course, focused on going to school. I had classes all five days of the week – since I chose to live at Akasaka, I had the option of walking the thirty to forty minutes to school, and I did. (This was both refreshing and new to my life and mind.) I’d attend classes and come home to do homework. I would either eat something that I bought out, I’d go out to eat with my roommate, or we would make food. Some nights I’d watch some of the craziest things on Japanese television (I love their game shows!), and others I would go out to Shibuya or a jump on the subway to go to a park and walk around. The weekends were, of course, spent traveling! There was always something to do or see, and my group of friends and I went to a lot of places with and without the school. It was always exciting when we successfully communicated with Japanese people or when we were able to find our way without help!
How has this experience changed you?
For one thing, I definitely want to go back! I’m continuing my education in Japanese and I can’t wait to go back when I’m more capable of communicating. I love the language and I was very comfortable there – I usually don’t like cities, but Tokyo was just great and varied greatly throughout each area. It’s just a completely different lifestyle. I think that I learned to adjust to city life a little better, so I’m not as scared of Tyler’s move from Elkins Park to Philadelphia, now. Most importantly, though, I’ve taken up a healthier lifestyle since my trip to Japan. When I was there, I walked almost everywhere that I didn’t take the train to, so my health started to improve. I’ve been eating better and exercising a lot more, even to the point of riding my bicycle to work pretty often (the people of Tokyo made me miss my bike!). It seems that Japan finally gave me that kick in the butt to get active again, and I’m incredibly grateful.
How was the experience of studying the language in the classroom (in high school or in college) prior to studying abroad different from the experience of studying the language in and outside of the classroom once you were abroad?
I know that I’m really going to miss that “hands-on” sort of quality that happens when you’re thrown into a country that primarily speaks a language that YOU don’t. I definitely picked up some phrases I wouldn’t have known otherwise through repetition in everyday activities. It forces you to pay attention more to what you’re learning – and in addition to learning Japanese, I also learned a great deal about expressing and understanding things through body language. My vocabulary improved outside of the classroom significantly, since I encountered words that I didn’t know. That and my ability to read katakana greatly improved (something I struggled with), as I was constantly surrounded by advertisements and products for me to practice on. I think that being immersed in society is definitely the best way to practice the language.