Japan and East Asia Studies Program Elective Classes & Nihongo Partner Experience & Experience in Japan

Public Relations Office        March 21, 2013

Michael Yu-che, University of British Columbia (Canada)

About the JSC classes


An older Japanese friend of mine asked about my exchange program here at Kwansei Gakuin University. When I told him about the JSC classes, he wondered why the university is making us taking classes in English. "Aren't you here to learn Japanese? This seems useless to me." He commended. "Hai." I smiled and nodded while he went on. I beg to differ - the JSC classes have been but useless. Being a Japanese language teacher, he missed a few points about leaning a second language. The JSC classes are the elective classes that we can take on top of the intensive Japanese courses, and they offer a wide range of topics from various field of studies. While the class format remains similar to that of North American universities, since they are taught by scholars from all over the world, the learning experiences differ drastically in different classes.

That is to say, you may or may not meet a professor whose ideas might disagree with your home university, and he or she might change your view on something you held on to for a long time - I speak from personal experience. In short, my friend missed a critical point about these classes- the JSC classes prevent the exchange program from reducing to a glorified language school, and they allow a comfortable space for academic discussions.

One of the biggest problems an exchange student encounters is the lack of proper environment to meet new friends, especially the native Japanese students (since the Japanese students tend to have little free time). An important function that the JSC classes serve is that these classes seem of create a middle ground between the Japanese students and the exchange students. The JSC classes are generally about Japanese culture, history, language and so on. In other words, these classes are about the air our Japanese classmates breath, and the water they drink - the classes are about the phenomenon that our Japanese classmates are part of and responsible for, and, perhaps take it for granted.

But, in these classes, they now encounter this phenomenon in a systematic, scholarly fashion, and they have to learn it through another language. As for us exchange students, we have learnt about Japan in an academic environment, and we are here to 'breath the air', so to speak. In either case, both the exchange students and the Japanese students are both partially in their environments. In this middle ground, we don’t take things for granted and we don’t make absolute culture presumptions.

It can perhaps be viewed this way: we are familiar with the arrangement and they are familiar with the content. What better way to communicate with each other than a friendly, intellectual discussion in an environment as comforting as a classroom?

Wei-ju Chen, National Chengchi University (Taiwan)

My Japanese Partner Experience

I met my Japanese partners, Haruna Uetsuji and Aki Yoshida, at the orientation. We became good friends soon, and the times I have spent chatting with them were the happiest time at school. We talked about everything from class activities to anything that was bothering us. And, of course, we went shopping and took trips on weekends. I think I was lucky to have met them, who were open minded and easy to talk with. Although they were my Japanese partner for only one semester, we still keep in contact with each other as good friends. This friendship will not be influenced by distance or language, and it will be forever, I believe.

Ninon Talote, Universite des Sciences et Technologies de Lille 1 (France)

My experience in Japan / of Japan

« Why did you come to Japan? » That is a question I have been asked a thousand times since I arrived in Kansai last September. Japanese people are always very curious to know what interests foreigners about their country. The first answer is usually « this is a very difficult question » and I am not the only one to think so. A lot of reasons drove me to come to Japan: an interest in Japanese pop culture at first, then a general interest about the country, its society, its history, its language, and at last, my studies. Indeed in my last year of studies, I specialized in business and international relations in East Asia, with a clear emphasis on Japan, a country which has fascinated me for several years now. But the thing I was interested in the most during my stay in Japan was to experience a very different country from mine, with not only objective differences but also with a completely different way of thinking and of behaving.

« Do you like Japan ? » That is usually the question that comes next. Saying « yes » as heartily as you can be… Japanese will not be satisfied. Once again they want to understand what makes foreigners like Japan. They want to be shown what is valuable in their country and how it can be perceived and appreciated by the ryugakusei.
Well, lots of things come to my mind in regards to explaining why Japan is a very interesting and enjoyable place to live in. First of all, I would say Japanese people are very kind and very polite people. Nobody would disagree on this point! I was well aware of that even before I came, as Japanese have this worldly reputation of being very nice people, but I was still impressed and continue to be so when I see how Japanese will do whatever they can to help you, to facilitate your life here, and to use all those very elaborate polite expressions in all kind of circumstances. There is great care given to avoid any trouble, disappointment or uncertainties in Japan, which is a very noticeable and appreciated part of the culture. That a train never arrives late, is something very new for me ! The care shown by professors is also very amazing. The class schedule is precisely respected and the professors apologize even for the slightest change.

What I also like about Japan is the constant presence of contradictions. Japan is surprising. It is a country with a very old history and with a lot of traditions still deeply rooted into the society, but it is also a very modern and high tech country. I like its « craziness » that makes it so charming. For instance, its obsession with « kawaii », the cuteness of things. But I could also mention its obsession with fashion. No one is more fashionable than a Japanese! The people appear to be very creative and daring.
The list of what I like about Japan could be very long. But there is another dimension in my Japanese experience I have found valuable. By coming to Japan, I not only have learned things about this country but also about my country, about Europe and about me too. And I think that adds to the value of this experience and of travelling in general.

« Will you come back ? » Yes, definitely !