Name: Christopher Broughton
Location of Study: Hakodate, Japan
Program of Study: Hokkaido International Foundation
Sponsor(s): Justin Liu
A brief personal bio:
My name is Christopher Broughton and I am a sophomore here at Notre Dame. I am currently a Physics (with a concentration in advanced physics) and Japanese major. I have been interested in Japan since I was young, but have never gotten a chance to study the language until this past year. I am very excited to have this opportunity to go abroad for my first time and I am very thankful to the people that allowed me to have this experience.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA Grant is allowing me to go abroad to Japan and better engage the language that I have been studying for the past year. It gives me the ability to complete a Japanese major as well as to receive enough Japanese knowledge to possibly pursue an internship there next summer and possibly some sort of job or fellowship after graduation. By receiving this grant, I am able to truly apply myself this summer in an intellectually challenging way that is very exciting to me.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
I will be able to better enhance my language learning and my future plans here at Notre Dame and beyond will be changed for the better. One of my biggest challenges when learning Japanese at school is practicing speaking. By enrolling in this program, I will be forced to practice and learn even more intricacies of the language when engaging the community and visiting the local area as well as communicating with my host family. Also, because I started Japanese in my Sophomore year, enrolling in this program will allow me to not only achieve my goal of getting a second major in Japanese, but get a much deeper understanding of the language and learn much more than I would be able to otherwise. By actually going and living in an environment where Japanese is common, I am able to gain a far greater appreciation for the spoken words and the culture in which they developed that is not possible by just sitting in the classroom or online.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will have the confidence to speak in Japanese to my teachers and peers without the hesitation that I have now.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to travel through Japan by myself with a greater knowledge of the language that will allow me to understand what I am doing and engage in my travels there.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, read, write and listen at a level of proficiency equal to two semesters beyond my current Japanese coursework.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
When I go to Japan I am planning on engaging the culture there in many ways to help gain perspective on a place that is completely different than what I am used to as well as gain appreciation and knowledge regarding the Japanese language. I am looking to engage the community in the standard way through the Foundation by going to the local schools and through their trips around the area. Also, I am excited to have a host family that I will be able to engage with on a daily basis. I am planning on actively looking for different places and environments in which I am able to readily practice my language study in the real world.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
6/16: As of this point, I’ve been in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan for a week. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind ride thus far. I flew from Detroit to Tokyo for 14 hours (which was a bit rough) and then stayed overnight in Odaiba with members of the program and then flew out the next day to Hakodate from Haneda Airport. That was only about 2 hours, but it was still taxing due to the jet lag from the night before. This still is lingering now, but to a lesser extent. I’ve never flown to a place that would have significant jet lag, so this is a new experience for me. After we landed in Hakodate, we had to take a few different exams to try and place us into the correct class. I have only taken one year of Japanese, so this really wasn’t much of a concern for me. After looking at the tests for thirty seconds, I knew that there was no way that I would be able to get anywhere other than the lowest level in the program, but that was a good thing because it was exactly where I wanted/needed to be. I met my host family a few days after landing in Hakodate. I was pretty concerned, but they ended up being extremely nice people and my little three year old host brother is pretty fun too. His favorite tv show is the Japanese equivalent of Power Rangers, called Go Busters. As for language learning, the first week of classes has been very overwhelming. It took a lot of effort to get used to the rapid pace and homework. If anything the most challenging thing is that the instructors speak no English at all to explain things. This has been very challenging because at this level, I really don’t understand all that much. At Notre Dame, the instructors would at least explain the grammar points in Japanese, which was so much ore helpful, but maybe this will get better as time goes on, but right now, it is extremely taxing. I also have to communicate with my host family a lot and that is really difficult, because my level is so low, but with modern smartphones we’re able to actually communicate well enough to get by. As for now, everything is going pretty well, but the language acquisition hasn’t really started in earnest because it’s all pretty overwhelming at this point, but it should get better.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
6/23: Class has begun to get more entertaining and the course load is substantially less taxing, but the in class explanations are still pretty challenging. Although, they are getting more understandable, despite not knowing all the words. I decided to talk to my host family about their views of the United States. It was odd how similar they viewed the US. At the end of the day, up here in the north of Japan they don’t really have a lot of interactions with States. My host cousin that I talked to really didn’t know much about the US outside of major pop culture influences like film and music, but then again, for youth, politics is less likely to catch the attention in comparison to the glitz of the entertainment industry. If anything, it speaks to how far the American entertainment juggernaut has infiltrated other parts of the world. When talking to my host mother and grandma, they both have similar views of the US. They have generic overview of what our country is, but they don’t really have any opinions either way. It’s fairly neutral. They have their presuppositions about life in the states, but when it comes to major political things they didn’t seem to have many opinions, but then again, that may have been assumed because I couldn’t translate their rapid fire speech quick enough. But I didn’t sense any negativity towards the US. Overall, the program is going well, although the exam that I took was extremely difficult. It seemed to focus more on vocabulary than grammar structures in comparison to my class at ND, which was really unexpected.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
6/30: This upcoming week is our last before we have our mid semester break. We’ll have both oral and written exams, which are likely to be little fun, but afterwards, I have plans to fly to Osaka and do a weekend of touring there because I won’t have time at the end of the program. As for my next journal task, I decided to look at a certain food that my location is famous for. This was a little difficult because there are few dishes that this city is especially known for, but it is an old fishing village and its greatest pride is their squid (in Japanese, ika). Hakodate is really well known in Japan for the quantity and quality of the squid. It really doesn’t have a specific preparation, so there are a lot of different ways in which it can be prepared, but its most prominent use is in sashimi, where it is cut, cleaned and served raw. So, for that, there is really no preparation, but it is really popular. My three year old host brother will eat it for breakfast. Just a bowl of cut squid, and he’s completely happy. This really surprised me, so it certainly spurred many conversations about the food with my family. We don’t go out to eat much, so I tend to only have it served by them, but according to the family, it is certainly the most special Hakodate food. They even have a celebration with fireworks and two parades to celebrate the squid. I don’t know much about it, so I may look at that in my next journal.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
7/14: At this point I’m about halfway (or a little over that) done with the program. It’s been an extremely fast paced ride up until this point. I really hope that I’m getting the best amount of language acquisition that I can, but it seems that I only really become comfortable with the material after taking the quiz. Also, it is really hard to remember all of the new material that we’ve learned and be able to use it in actual conversation without carrying the textbook around with me. I’m doing the best that I can, though. So for this journal, I looked at the Hakodate Squid Festival. I tried talking to someone in an official tourist capacity, but that proved to be difficult. I didn’t quite understand what he was trying to say, due to use of words that I’m assuming had something to do with past events. I tried talking to my host mom about this question as well. The crux of the festival is Hakodate’s long relationship with the squid being their chief product and creator of what small fame the town has. The festival has three parts, in which there is a fireworks celebration on one night and the next two afternoons have parades. The major parade is on the the first Friday of August in which the ika odori dance is performed. It is essentially a large group dance that many people in the city participate in. I really wasn’t able to gather much about that aside from the fact that the music is quite catchy. Apparently, my host family has plans to go dance with the town, so I’ll probably end up joining them, as it’s after my final exam.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
7/21: At this point it seems that we’re about three quarters of the way done with the program. I can’t believe it’s gone by so quickly, but then again, with the rapid pacing of class, we don’t get a lot of time to ourselves and are always busy with cultural activities or schoolwork. The language study is progressing at the same pace. The tests are still immensely challenging, but I feel that at the very least that I’ve met the goal of becoming a more proficient speaker. Even if I lose some of the written things or am not as good with the grammar points as I’d like to be, I’m so much more confident with my speaking ability, and that alone (among so many other things) makes this trip worthwhile. It seems like this is likely my last directed journal entry, and for this, I decided to look at an issue currently in the news. I was unable to really use a newspaper, because, if you know anything about Japanese, you know the prevalence of characters in their writing and at this point I know roughly 350 out of thousands, so reading the newspaper is extremely difficult. However, I do watch the news in the morning as I eat my breakfast fish, and saw one of the most prevalent issues currently is that the Americans are sending these special planes, called ospreys, to a military base near Okinawa in the south of Japan. I ended up discussing this with three adults that I had met in my time here. We are in the far north of Japan so this really has no direct affect on their lives here, but due to the news coverage, everyone seems to know something about it. The interesting thing is that the people I talked to had roughly the same opinion. They’re not extremely excited about the idea of more American military equipment being sent to Japan, but there’s also nothing that they can do about it. Although, they (and the news) expressed concern about the safety issues associated with the aircraft. If anything, that was the major concern brought to light. And rightly so, especially if these planes are flying over the homes of their family and friends. I don’t exactly understand everything about the controversy or the causes for it, but I will certainly do some research when I return to the States.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
7/28: This looks to be like my last journal entry for the summer. I have one more week left until I leave Hakodate for traveling in Kyoto and Tokyo. It’s been a really fun summer, but it will good to change pace before school starts again. I enjoyed this experience and it was amazing to communicate with an entirely different culture of people in their own language, but 8 weeks of intense school has started to wear on me. I think that I did the best that I could, it was certainly more challenging than I had ever anticipated, but I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to do this program. I learned so much about this culture and language and even a little about my own self and goals. I’ll likely miss my host family and life here to some extent, but I’m really excited to get back to my normal food. Thanks so much to the CSLC and SLA for making my summer possible.
Postcard(s) from Abroad:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
This summer I did increase both my language acquisition and acculturation immensely. I was really surprised that there was such a change after just one summer. I really began to appreciate the Japanese culture in a far deeper way than I had before and really got to know the people I interacted with and tried to understand why their lives were how they were and why mine is different, which allowed me to appreciate the differences and allowed me to grow. Also, I was able to accomplish all of my goals over the summer. I can easily talk to my teachers without hesitation. My language may not be exactly correct, but I’m no longer timid or scared to speak in the new language. As for my second goal, I was able to travel in Japan after the end of my program and I was able to do very well throughout my trip and I recognized so many things that I learned throughout the summer and was able to utilize my knowledge for that. Finally, I tested into the third year of Japanese, so this goal was obviously accomplished.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
The experience of the summer study abroad was great for me. I learned so much and got to be a part of a completely different culture for quite a long time. I brought back an excitement towards learning more of the language as well as a desire to once again become part of that culture. Of anything, the summer allowed me to truly fall in love with Japan and really appreciate this place that is so different from America. I would definitely recommend a language program for summer study as long as the person was extremely motivated and ready for a real challenge. Looking back, I’m so glad I had this experience, but a years worth of schoolwork in a summer really is a challenge and can be quite overwhelming at times, especially being in a completely foreign place.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I am really unsure of my plans after graduation, but I would love for life in Japan to be in my future. As far as for the next two years at school, I’m planning on taking more classes in the language as well as the cultural classes offered here. It has given me the ability to hopefully get a major in Japanese, which is a really exciting prospect, especially for the time of job searching after graduation.