When I arrived at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan, I expected my study abroad experience to be simple. Although I am participating in an Intensive Japanese language program, as a heritage speaker I did not expect much of a challenge and intended the trip to be a route of self-discovery and “vacation.” However, my study abroad program ended up becoming something more than just a simple trip; it became a memory bound with joy, challenges, and growth.
One of the points that attracted me to my program (CET Academic Programs) was its language pledge. Unlike many other study abroad programs, mine requires a 24/7 Japanese only pledge. Explicitly, no English. No English conversations or music (at least in earshot of other students), and our classes were entirely conducted in Japanese. At first, I thought this would be very simple, but as I began living with my American and Japanese roommates (these roommates are selected by CET to be language partners) the difficulties started to arise. In contrast to what I originally thought, it was actually much more difficult communicating with my American roommates than my Japanese roommates! As the students are divided into classes based on their language level, everyone’s comprehension and tool box of words are very different. This often lead to miscommunication or simply just not understanding what others were saying.
As much of a challenge as it was, the pledge was very beneficial. I learned how to work around words I did not understand, and as challenging the class was, being taught completely in Japanese, I feel that my Japanese has advanced more in 2 months than it did in a year while taking classes at home.
Since my program is focused on intensive language studies, it can be difficult to find time to oneself with the mountain of assignments and homework one needs to do. However, I still managed to find a little bit of time to explore around. Luckily being in Osaka, it has plenty to offer. From delicious food to historical sites, I began to see the Japan that one cannot learn from a textbook. One of my favorite experiences was my recent trip to Uji, Japan with my program. We visited Byodoin, a temple found on the back of the 10-yen coin, as well as experienced the art of making tea. While the tea was a little too strong for my tastes, I felt that I stepped back in time to a more historical Japan.
While there are times that I still don’t quite understand what people are saying, I can say without hesitation that my time in Japan has not only been fulfilling, but an experience that has nurtured my language skills and understanding of Japanese culture.
This post was contributed by Mari Spurgers, a 2018 Global Ambassador.
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