Seeking something new: AJ, a J. F. Oberlin R. J. Student

One of many classes AJ took at his university in Canada was Japanese. To study Japanese, and feel Japanese culture deeper, he decided to come to Japan as an exchange student. At Vancouver Island University he took a variety of classes, like acting, music, and film, in order to find something that really matched him. His aim of going to university was not only to graduate, but also to learn and experience many things. This is why he took a Japanese class. Before coming to Japan, he had to choose two things: the period of study, and which area to live in. He had to choose between studying for six months or a full year, and as he wanted to study Japanese as much as possible, he chose a full year. Furthermore, he also had to decide whether he wanted to live in the city, or the countryside. He is comfortable with living in the countryside, so J. F. Oberlin, which is close to the countryside, was quite a natural choice for him.

AJ is a student on the Reconnaissance Japan (R.J.) Program at J. F. Oberlin university, which is located in Tokyo.

Links: J. F. Oberlin University English web site, and Japanese web site. Reconnaissance Japan Program official web site.

He found many differences between universities in Japan and Canada. For example, in Canada most students drive to school, yet in Japan almost everyone takes the train, and, at J. F. Oberlin the school bus. In addition, students who do take a school bus in Canada have to buy a commuter pass, whereas in Japan they do not have to pay. Buildings at his university in Canada only had two or three floors, yet in Japan campus buildings with eight floors are common. He is also surprised by students’ fashions, especially young women. They wear boots in winter, and very short skirts in winter. AJ thinks their fashion is regardless of seasons, and in his eyes, it is very strange. He also found that Japanese students are very quiet in class, and very polite and courteous. They apologize to a person even when they did not do anything wrong. He thinks it is somehow funny and strange, but he likes it because many Canadians do not apologize, even when they have done something wrong. AJ finds the cultural differences between Canada and Japan peculiar, in many ways.

AJ feels that he is running up against a brick wall with language problems, as he has difficulty understanding Japanese. He often faces this problems in his daily life, for example while shopping. When he goes to a drugstore to buy some medicine, he wants to ask a store where he can find it, but since the clerk does not speak English, and AJ does not understand Japanese very well, he can not help but feeling a little bit embarrassed. He faces many embarrassing situations in Japan, and it makes him want to learn Japanese more and more. For the moment, things are a little hard for him.

To people who are planning to come to Japan to study at a university, AJ has some good advice. Of course he thinks they should study Japanese before coming to Japan, but he also has other advice. Bringing the right clothes is important; if people come from a cool or temperate country, they should be prepared for a lot of heat and humidity during the summer. He also says that they will have to expect crowds in Japan, especially the trains, which are often crammed with people, so it is best to be mentally prepared for this before coming. Life in Japan is fun, but entertainment and sightseeing can be expensive, so people show budget for this when deciding how much money to bring. AJ also advises people not to be too shy, because socializing with Japanese people is a lot of fun.

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