1. Reflect on your language learning and acculturation during your SLA Grant experience.

The pace of the summer program was fast. However, the faster I learned the material, the faster I forgot it as well. It was difficult to retain the information, and I am a bit nervous about the upcoming placement exam. I did learn a lot new grammar though-an equivalent of a year’s worth at Notre Dame-so I hope to employ this new material in everyday speech during Japanese class. Although my teacher and host family complimented me on my improvement, I am struggling to see it. However, comparing myself from first year to now, I can see that I have reached milestones.

One thing I have realized is the number of 作文 3rd year students write. I first found it to be a nuisance, but it has greatly helped with my usage of grammar and vocabulary. Although I do not enjoy writing them, I do appreciate their assistance.

2. Reflect on your SLA Grant experience overall.

It was irreplaceable. I met a lot of people that have grown every dear to my heart. And I miss them immensely. I will never forget this experience.

It was my first time riding an airplane to a different country. And although I was very homesick the first week, Hakodate was absolutely beautiful and calming and I grew to love the program, the people, the city.

3. How do you plan to use your language and intercultural competences in the future?

After graduation, I plan on applying for the JET Program. If accepted, I will teach English in Japan for a duration of one to two years. I am still unsure of what job I want to do, but I thought the JET Program will be ideal because I love children, Japanese and Japan. In addition, the time period will help me plan and think of the future. At least I hope so.

Second Host Family

The program has officially ended. And just like before, I wanted to dedicate this post to my second host family.

Before I left for Narita Airport, I didn’t expect to cry. I felt like my bond with both my host families was more respectful than anything. And because my time was separated between two host families, I didn’t have the full two months to be attached. At least I thought so.

But I am so glad that I met both of my host families. They were both very welcoming and kind and different in their own ways. I played a lot more with the children in the previous host family but rarely did with the second. However, second semester was way more hectic than the first as deadlines were approaching and a faster learning pace was adopted.

Nonetheless, my second host family did their best to accommodate with my busy schedule. We went to see the famous night view of Hakodate. It was ranked the world’s top three most beautiful views.

It was a crowded, chilly night. But definitely worth it. It was so beautiful.

Another weekend, we went camping with other families. The children played in the nearby river while some adults watched them and others made rice curry. It was delicious! I really love eating rice curry. There’s not a lot of spicy food in Japan, but I prefer sweet curry instead.

We also visited cafés and local cake shops together. The cakes were cutely decorated and so soft and sweet. I already miss these sweets.

My second host family was incredibly nice. They always drove me to the station every morning because the bus came super early. Because my close friend lived 5 min away, she was also able to come with us. My friend’s host family was in the same area, so we became really close and had an ending party.

It was really sweet that they came together. And it was actually my friend and I’s plan to have our host families become friends. I hope they can maintain their friendship even after the program. They have similar personalities and wonderful hearts.

I already miss my time in Japan. I never thought I would be so attached to the city, my classmates, and my host family, especially since it was only two months. But being able to have these feelings just mean that everyone was precious. I will never forget this experience. Thank you so much to my second host family <3

What I Missed

While in Japan, it became apparent that I missed one thing unique to America: hamburgers. It just wasn’t the same. The tender meat. The abundance of ketchup. The greasy stains.

Just kidding, I didn’t miss the hamburgers. All jokes aside, I missed the diversity.

Towards the end of my stay, I wanted to see different cultures and hear various languages. I come from an Asian background, and I’ve been told my Japanese people that I can blend in the crowd. No one avoided sitting next to me on the bus though I’ve heard stories of other students with this problem. However, whenever I spoke English outside or walked with my close friends, I felt the stares of the locals. And it was uncomfortable.

I missed the sense of belonging. And I know America has its own problems regarding racism and discrimination, but I missed being able to come from a different background without judgment (from the majority). I hope we are able to overcome these differences in background, culture, and language because, honestly, America’s melting pot is one of the country’s greatest quality.

Semester Break

Before the second half of the program began, students were able to enjoy themselves on a mini four-day semester break. I went to Sapporo, a much bigger city compared to Hakodate, and visited a lot of places that gladly accepted my monies.

Before coming to Japan, I have heard of the famous cat cafés. Of course, America has some as well but only in certain cities. The café itself was a bit different than I had imagined. I thought the cats would come to us because they would be used to human contact, but they all fled from our vicinity. One even bit my hand! It probably reacted in this manner because I touched it while it was still tense. I can’t blame them though. They weren’t familiar with us.

There were also a variety of books on the shelves so that you can relax and enjoy your time with the cats. However, we were all busy trying to pet them or take cute pictures.

They were all so fluffy and big and adorable, that’s why.

But the highlight of my trip was definitely riding the ferris wheel. Isn’t that the anime trope? Confessing to your crush while the sun sets perfectly, casting a warm hue across the cityscape. Well, that was not necessarily the case. I’m deathly afraid of heights, but I’ve always wanted to try riding a ferris wheel. However, once I sat down, I immediately regretted my decision.

Luckily, one of my good friends rode alongside with me, and I held her hand the entire time while going up. Once we reached the top and started lowering, I finally looked out to see the brightly lit buildings filling up the night sky. It was absolutely beautiful.

First Host Family

Time flies fast. HIF assigned me two host families for my stay here in Hakodate, so I just recently moved into a new house a few days ago. Second semester will start tomorrow, and to say I’m ready for the homework and daily quizzes would be a lie.

It’s been a month here, and I’ve made some irreplaceable memories. I actually want to dedicate this post to my previous host family, since I am no longer living with them for the remainder of my time here in Hakodate.

Our first outing: We went strawberry picking on a cloudy Sunday morning to early afternoon, and although the strawberries were a bit small, they were very delicious.

The boys played with their friends while I tagged along with my host mother and sister. I remember picking and eating the strawberries constantly, so my tray never filled to the top. I could definitely sense the communal aspect that came along with strawberry picking because people from various areas all joined together in this activity. Some individuals even spoke to me, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Aside from making gyoza and takoyaki (mentioned in my first post), I also had the chance to make bread and pizza! やっぱり作った料理の方が美味しいね〜!Making food was a simple but fun way to bond with my host family and exchange interesting conversations. I definitely want to try these activities with my own family when I go back to America! They’re very easy to make and super delicious as well~!!

Because of the homework load, I couldn’t play with the children as much as I would like to. However, every night before they went to bed, we would play in my room for approximately 30 minutes. Our games ranged from hide-and-seek, blue demon, and zombie tag. It was fun but also a lot of work. Sometimes I can’t keep up with their energy.

July 7th is a special holiday in Japan called Tanabata. On this day, people write their wishes on a slip of paper and hang it on a bamboo tree. In Hakodate specifically, young children are able to go to nearby houses and stores and receive gifts. There’s a special Tanabata song that they sing in order to receive their snacks and/or toys. It reminded me a lot of Halloween, and running along with my host sister and host grandmother was so much fun! My host grandmother talked to me so much, and though I couldn’t understand everything she said, I was able to comprehend the overall meaning. I’m not a talkative person in general, so I appreciated that she spoke to me majority of the time. Besides, she was always laughing and smiling, so I greatly enjoyed her presence. I don’t think I can ever experience a Tanabata like this one since it is special only to the city of Hakodate.

The last family outing that we had was at an izakaya, which is an informal pub. We were placed in a separate non-smoking room that had toys for the children, and it was so much fun! Definitely one of the best nights 🙂 We were able to order unlimited food for the price of 30 dollars, karaoke our hearts out, and dance to the music. The highlight of the night was when my host parents sang I just can’t wait to be king. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I really can’t describe my feelings in words when it comes to my previous host family. I’m so grateful for everything that they have done for me. I wish I can write all the memories down in this post, but it would be so long and, unfortunately, do it no justice. Although I lived with them for only a month, they’ve grown to be a comfortable presence. I feel like myself with them. (They know that I love taking naps more than I like studying). I hope that you, the reader, can understand these feelings I’m trying to convey (though done poorly). Thank you so much Ishii-san <3 I cannot wait to visit you again in the nearby future.

The Beginning

It’s always been my dream to walk the streets of Japan and to be able to do so now makes me unbelievably satisfied.

The 13-hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo was just how I imagined–painfully slow. The last three hours were especially difficult because of my motion sickness, and landing did not help with my nausea. However, I was able to sit by the window and thus had the wonderful opportunity to look at the scenery upon my arrival. It was breathtaking.

Before the program started, I was a bit nervous about studying abroad in Japan. I barely studied over the summer, rarely ate seafood, and hardly spoke Japanese on a daily basis. I also knew I was going to miss my family back home. I was looking forward to all three aspects of the HIF Program but was unsure if I would enjoy every aspect.

Having been in Japan for a week now, I must say that the beginning was rough. Traveling from place to place exhausted me. And although we were given free time to explore Tokyo and Hakodate, I napped for the majority of it until the placement exam. Of course, I did visit the onsen and convenience stores but did not walk as much compared to other HIF students. I have also heard of the intensity of the program, but the workload still surprised me. Even now, I am still struggling to find a balance between studying and sightseeing.

Settling into my host family’s house, the realization that I was living in a different country suddenly hit me like a fast curve ball that I never saw coming. The unfamiliarity of the environment and the people overwhelmed me to the point where I shed tears in my room.

However, my host family has been so understanding and so open-minded and so kind. Before moving in, my biggest worry was leaving leftovers behind (I’m particularly picky with my food); I did not want to be rude in any way towards my host family because they allowed me to reside in their home whilst abroad. But my host mom reassured me that leftovers are “OK~!” Fortunately, every breakfast and dinner has been absolutely delicious. My favorite moments so far have been making gyoza and takoyaki together. But cow tongue for dinner was definitely the best meal! I highly recommend it!!

Trying new things is part of the study abroad experience, and so I should not shy away from expanding my food palette and visiting new places. Although the beginning might have been a bit difficult, the story still continues, and, in my opinion, it’s the ending that really determines the experience abroad.