- I participated in the Japanese Language and Culture study abroad program, during which I stayed in Kobe, Japan along with ten other Ohio State students. We explored the surrounding Kansai region, which is home to a great deal of history and unique culture. Furthermore, I conducted a research project on traditional Japanese festivals through interviewing students at a local university.
- The prominence of the cultural exchange between America and Japan came as no surprise to me. Considering both America’s worldwide influence and the amount of Japanese cultural exports that have made it to the United States over the years, it made sense. Still, I was interested by the fact that Americans and Japanese people had fallen in love with each other’s cultures to such an extent. Everyone on both sides was incredibly enthusiastic about both sharing their own culture and learning about the other, no matter what topic was being discussed. While I was previously somewhat aware of how globalized our world has become, it had seemed recently that many countries were becoming more introspective, so I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case among the people I interacted with.
- We stayed at a building owned by Shoin University, at which we had two young women acting as Resident Advisors. One in particular was very knowledgeable on the subject of American popular music; she could probably name every major pop act of the last ten years at least, as well as every Disney idol. I greatly enjoyed talking with her about which songs she liked most, and she asked a million questions about various artists and what the lyrics meant. One night, the whole group decided to introduce both of our RAs to famous music from the 1970s and 1980s, which were older than the ones they knew about. They were highly entertained by our enthusiastic singing, and they showed us Japanese music from the same era in return. We were even taught some of the dances and choruses of a few songs.
For one weekend of our time in Kobe, each of us stayed at the home of a Japanese family. My host parents were an older couple with adult children and young grandchildren. The first night I was with them, their younger son, his wife, and their two young daughters came for dinner. The son and his wife spent around an hour talking with me about the differences between Japanese and American schools, holidays, fashion, etc. In particular, the wife would ask me how to say various things in English, and the entire family would attempt to imitate me saying it, which they found hilarious. The most surprising moments were when the English and Japanese words were almost identical to each other. Similarly, we all laughed at my attempts to eat with chopsticks and my reactions to food I had never had before. The older of the two granddaughters, who was about six years old, showed me how to make a couple simple origami figures at my request – she was much better at it than I was.
Each Ohio State student was paired with a student from Shoin University as language partners. The Shoin students took us out for food or day trips when we had free time throughout the course of the trip. My language partner was an especially energetic and outgoing individual, and she spent a considerable amount of time with me and the other OSU students during the study abroad. She was very interested in American movies and television shows, particularly in Disney films. Several conversations were centered on topics such as the different names of the movies between English and Japanese, which ones were most popular in Japan, and which ones she liked best personally. She took me around Kyoto on the first weekend, a city I have always been fascinated by due to its historical significance, and was surprised by how much I was interested in places she considered to be pretty standard. Another time, she commented being shocked by how much all of us seemed to be enjoying Japanese foods such as miso soup or curry rice that she thought of as uninteresting, to which we responded that these foods were rarer in the United States. Of course, in any study abroad experience, people are going to want to share their cultures, but I was still positively surprised by the eagerness shown by both the Americans and Japanese people with whom I interacted. These observations were some of my favorite parts of the entire experience.
- Currently, I am not quite sure what I would like to do for a career. However, I do know that I want to do work that involves using my Japanese language skills and which would most likely be strongly related to culture. Understanding the cultural exchange between our two countries would be essential in such circumstances, whether I was interpreting, teaching, or researching. Furthermore, I have always been fascinated with the similarities between cultures. Part of my hope for my first experience in Japan was to observe in person some of these shared traits as well as incorporations of Western culture that had been made uniquely Japanese despite their origins, and that hope was both fulfilled and expanded upon by being able to witness the very multicultural interests of people from both nations during my stay in Kobe.