Studying abroad had been one of the best decisions of my life.. It has challenged my Western notions about life, exposed me to new creative ideas and paths, and has been very character building.
Kansai Gaidai Universityin Hirakata, Osaka, Japan, is located very conveniently. Easy day trips to Osaka and Kyoto, Japan’s old capital and traditional cultural epicentre, make it easy to experience their temples and castles. Weekend trips to Hiroshima and Wakayama are also possible. There is quite a bit of Western influence, so if you are cautious about Japanese cuisine, you can definitely find something you would like to eat. Just be mindful that there is no eating-on-the-go in Japan! However, I highly recommend eating as much Japanese food as possible. Healthy, delicious and a total tastebud experience! I personally have fallen in love with Okonomiyaki and shashimi sushi!
If you are concerned about the language barrier, don’t let that stop you! The people of Osaka are very eager to help and most speak at least a little English. The best conversations I’ve had here are the ones that were conducted in broken half Japanese-English! The Japanese classes at the university are also top-notch and there is also a Japanese Language speaking partner program available if you choose. I personally didn’t sign-up, preferring instead to practice my Japanese with the friends I made in the cafeteria or student lounge. The Japanese students are just as eager to meet you as you are to meet them!
If your degree allows you, I suggest taking the more culturally bent classes offered at Kansai Gaidai. Such things as Shinto, History of the Japanese Warrior and Yokai are just a few of them, and their alternate cultural narratives really enriches your understanding of the different ways people construct their lives. For my Arts degree, it really fired up my imagination for creative expression.
You will experience being the ‘other.’ You will be stared at and observed, but don’t let this put you off. For me, being the fish-out-of-water was the best experience in the world. It gave me a deeper understanding of people we ‘other’ in our own country. It also made me realise how simple things like, finding food you know how to cook at the grocery store can actually be extremely difficult.
I didn’t participate in homestay because of my minimal Japanese, but don’t think that by living in a Seminar House you will miss out! One of the things I’ve loved most about my study abroad is the people I’ve gotten to live with. From all over the world, learning about each other’s homes and cultures, was really amazing. I can’t count how many times I argued with the Americans over jam/jelly labels!
All in all, study abroad, no matter where you go, will be an unforgettable experience!