My Adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun

UMD Study Abroad Blog

Cultural Immersion


Unfortunately, my engagement with the local community has been minimal, since I am not sure how to get more involved, especially with my low level of Japanese comprehension. However, I have a Japanese Conversation Buddy who I meet with on weekly basis. She has told me about a few nearby food places that I should try, including the university cafeteria and a seasonal treat served only at Japanese McDonald’s. Aside from this, I have spoken with a handful of Japanese students affiliated with the International Affairs Office, as they helped us move into our apartments and apply for our national health insurance.The longest conversation I had was about the difficulties of learning the Japanese language, and the complicated nature of kanji, which even Japanese students struggle with, according to him. In both my International Negotiation and Comprehensive Japanese classes, I partnered up with a Japanese student for a class activity and we were able to chat for a little while after we finished.

The rest of my interaction with the local community has been limited to walking past them, standing next to them or buying something from the store they work at. Although, I did attend an event held by a local organization called KyoTomorrow that specifically wanted international students in attendance. The event took place mainly at a park, where we ate lunch, talked and played some Japanese outdoor games. I will be attending another event hosted by them this weekend which is an edamame festival.

While living here for the past month and a half, I have observed a lot about the local culture, but my initial observation was that Japanese people are usually very reserved and quiet when waiting in an elevator or riding a train. Also, most people that I see are walking by themselves.Once in a while, there will be a group of friends talking quietly or a mother and her children, which is quite heartwarming. When asking for directions, the local community is very helpful, doing their best to answer the question, even if they are not sure themselves.Another observation I have made is that in regards to transportation, most people seem to walk or ride their bikes around the city instead of driving around in a car. There are, of course, still cas on the road, but there are a lot more people walking and riding bikes than I have ever seen in America. Japanese bikes even have baskets for groceries along with a seat for a child.

I love all the new things I am learning, at school as well as in my travels. I like that the crosswalks have a light that tells you when to cross the street. Talking with other students is something I look forward to, asĀ  want to make more connections and form friendships here. So far, I have liked most of the Japanese food I have tried, and look forward to trying more.

Like I have mentioned in past entries, being alone most of the time has been hard to adjust to, since I am used to having friends or family with me. Fortunately, I have been able to keep in touch with my family through the internet, but I hope to have more opportunities to go out with classmates or attend local events.The other adjustment that I have not quite been able to make is getting used the longer days of classes and the frequent tests. Towards the end of the week, I feel really drained. Hopefully I will become accustomed to this soon, making it more manageable. Until then, I will take my days one step at a time and give it my best!

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