Give us an intro!
I'm a junior Chemical Engineering major at Yale University from sunny San Diego, California. Outside of class I like to do Tae Kwon Do and (pretend to know) Hip Hop dance. My favorite hobby is going to concerts (Blink 182 anyone?).
Why did you pick this program?
Although there were many options for Japanese language programs (Osaka, Tokyo, Hokkaido, etc.), what I wanted the most from this summer was a real taste of the culture.
I found Osaka to be the best option for this. The city is a food hub, and surrounding it are sites such as Kyoto and Nara, making it (in my opinion) the best location for access to culture.
Also, because it is less of a tourist site than Tokyo, I was able to practice Japanese more in Osaka since English is less commonly known there.
What was hardest part about going abroad?
Adjusting to different cultural norms was probably the biggest struggle. It took me a while to get into the habit of taking my shoes off before entering a house, not hugging people, not looking people straight in the eye, etc.
The culture is just so different from the way I behave and I went through a fair number of uncomfortable experiences before I finally got the hang of it. But I think this problem ended was positive in the end because it forced me pay more attention to why this culture upholds such different practices.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
One weekend I went to Tokyo and a group of us went clubbing (word of advice: the trains don't run all night, so please know that beforehand so you don't find out at 2:00 am and have to walk around the city until 5 in the morning waiting for the trains to start running again).
After leaving the club we headed over to the fish market at around 3:00 am to watch a live tuna auction, then had sushi for breakfast. To me that just encompasses so many things I loved about Japan: ease of travel within the country, fun activities with friends, great food, and the excitement of doing something new because it just happened to be there.
Normally watching a tuna auction isn't everyone's idea of "fun" right after clubbing, but we sure had a blast.
What made this experience unique and special?
This program made Japan seem more like a home to me than a tourist spot. A lot of people go to Japan to be tourists, but going as a part of CET Osaka made even that seem like just another side activity. Through CET I took classes at an actual university, meaning I made friends my age and lived roughly the same lifestyle of any other Japanese student.
I imagine most people who visit Japan will make memories consisting of a cool building they took a picture of. Although I made plenty of those memories too, I also have ones like my favorite spot along the river, the small restaurant with the owners who we saw so frequently that we called them auntie and uncle (in Japanese, of course), the karaoke place we would visit for hours after school, the list goes on.
This experience offered me the chance to make Japan feel like a home, rather than merely some flashy place I visited and checked off my bucket list.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Don't be shy to make friends. For starters, you have the roommates who are already trying to get along with you (they wouldn't have signed up for the program otherwise).
Not only that, you also have the students at the university itself who you can also get to know. Some of our American students just started talking to random people sitting around during lunch time, and by the end of the program they had made good friends out of students who weren't even in CET.
In my opinion that's the most important aspect of this program. Everything else like eating good food and exploring becomes ten times easier and more enjoyable when you have Japanese friends who want to tag along on these adventures.