Post-Program Reflection

  1. Reflect on your language learning and acculturation during your SLA experience. What insights did you gain into the language acquisition process? How did you engage and understand cultural differences? Did you meet your goals for language learning that you articulated on the blog before you started your program? Why or why not?

By studying at HIF over the summer I was able to complete my second full year of Japanese in less than a full calendar year. This has accelerated my progress as I will 1`now be taking the third level of the language as I head into my sophomore year. Specifically, I improved most in terms of my speaking ability as I was able to converse with my host family and others outside of the classroom, while using the grammar and vocabulary that I was learning inside the classroom. Every Thursday I would accompany my host family to their gospel choir practices. There I was able to talk with and befriend many of the members, and therefore strengthen my conversational skills. Furthermore, through this experience, I was faced with many cultural differences besides language. Religion, song, food among others were different from what I was used to back home, but I embraced these differences as I was eager to learn more.

Regarding my initial goals, I believe that I was able to meet them. I definitely gained a mastery over level two of the language and am planning to continue studying it until I am able to master everything. Secondly, I believe that I was able to forge many strong relationships with the people that I met in Japan. I became friends with not only my classmates, the other students in the program, and most host family, but many people and students of Hakodate through my IS and extracurricular involvement.

2) Reflect on your SLA experience overall. What insights have you brought back as a result of this experience? How has your summer language abroad changed you and/or your worldview? What advice would you give to someone who was considering applying for an SLA Grant or preparing to start their own summer language study?

By participating in the HIF program I have not only improved upon my ability to communicate in Japanese, but also learned how to live the life of a Japanese student. Because of this, my horizons have been broadened in both a cultural an intellectual manner. I’ve become more understanding regarding the different types of lives people live and the hardships they go through. I’ve seen and experienced the differences in religion and celebration, and the overall mindset of the Japanese culture. Through this, I’ve really come to appreciate the fact that there are many different cultures and lifestyles that coexist in the world as it brings about diversity and difference that is pleasurable to explore.

If someone were applying for the SLA grant or wanting to study abroad, the best piece of advice that I could give would be to be open minded and be willing to experience new things. Because receiving both this grant and the opportunity to study abroad are such rare and exclusive experiences, I wanted to be open to as many new things as I could during my time abroad. I was able to make the most out of my two months in Japan while doing this and I believe that other people who wish to take advantage of every opportunity will also benefit the most from their experience.

3) How do you plan to use your language and intercultural competences in the future? Where do you go from here? How will you maintain, grow and/or apply what you have learned? How might you use your SLA experience during the rest of your academic career and post-graduation? How will your SLA experience inform you as you move forward academically, personally and professionally?

From here I wish to revisit Japan next year studying abroad during either the Spring or Fall semester. Because my language skills, as well as my cultural understandings, have improved this summer, I believe that I will be able to have a more effective and enjoyable experience next year than I would have otherwise. Further in the future, I wish to work in abroad in Japan, or in a position in which my language skills would be utilized. Therefore, I believe that because I was able to accelerate my Japanese language learning, as well as practice my skills in a real-world setting, I have taken a great step forwards into making this goal a reality.

Hakodate’s Festival

Today is August 3rd — the last full weekend that we have left here in Hakodate. It’s almost been a full two months, but I’m not yet ready to leave. I’d love to see my friends and family back home, but this experience has been too fun and fulfilling for me to want to leave so soon. However, I was able to make the most out of this past weekend.

Last week was Hakodate’s festival week, where there was a special event each day, Monday – Friday. Because of class and homework, I was too busy to contribute to the city’s goings until Thursday. Thursday was the 花火祭り, or the fireworks festival. For this, I went to a restaurant with my host family, where they performed their gospel songs, and we ate and watched the fireworks afterwards. It was a really fun time because I was able to talk to a lot of the choir members in a more casual setting. It was also nice to be able to use all of the new grammar and vocabulary that I’ve learned throughout the program.

Friday was Hakodate’s main event: the イカ踊り, or squid dance. It was a parade of sorts that everyone in the city was allowed to partake in. However unlike a normal American style parade, it was more of a big dance, where everyone walked through the town dancing and there were no big floats or attractions. It was a super fun and surreal experience for a number of reasons. First, we got to meet the famous musician Post Malone. For one reason or another, he was actually visiting Hakodate that same week, and by chance an intern at the school had ran into him the night before. He also invited Post Malone to come and dance in the parade with us, and we were able to talk to him and take photos. Secondly, the parade itself was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Dancing to a Japanese song in the middle of the street with friends from all over the world that I had just met two months prior was certainly a unique experience, and something that I will never forget.

Across these two days I definitely had some of my best experiences here in Japan. It has been such and amazing and enlightening experience, but I am really sad that it’s almost coming to an end.

Semester Break

Today is July 14th. This past week was our last week of class for the first semester. We took our final on Wednesday, which I though went well, and then had Thursday through Sunday off of school. During this four day break, many of my friends decided to travel independently, down to Tokyo, stay in the Hakodate area, or somewhere different. Many of the other students, including myself, however, decided to go with the HIF organized group travel plan up to Sapporo. You may know this Japanese city because of it’s world-famous beer. I just returned back home after the long 3-hour bus ride, and am therefore exhausted, but for good reason. Because the place we are all living in, Hakodate, is on the smaller side, Sapporo was the first taste of Japanese city life that I’ve gotten since being here. I would still really love to visit Tokyo someday, but Sapporo was amazing regardless. There I, along with friends, ate a little too much food, did a little too much shopping, and had a great time. It was a perfect way to relax after four weeks of straight studying.

However, speaking of school, the second semester does start back up tomorrow. However, contrary to common belief, I am actually really excited. While having three hours of the same class each day, and a quiz first thing each morning, is very strenuous on the brain, I really do love class. I’ve come to forge strong bonds with the class and our teacher. We’ve even organized a group trip outside of class, with the teacher to go see a new Japanese movie and get dinner afterwards next weekend.

I feel like the program as a whole has not only been great in teaching us Japanese, but also getting us to feel like a community. Every single staff member there, and not only the teachers, knows the names of, and is close with all the students. The whole school is something completely unlike anything I have ever experienced before, and I am so happy that I am apart of it. My host family and I too, have become a lot closer than I would have ever anticipated. An example of this has been that on every Thursday night these past few weeks I have accompanied my host family to their gospel choir practice. My host mother actually leads a gospel choir in the Hakodate community in which they sing many English gospel songs. Therefore I help teach the pronunciation of English words. It has been a really unique experience that I’ve come to really enjoy; And through this I have grown a lot closer to both my host family and the entire gospel choir.

Onuma Trip & More

Today is June 30th. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve last written, and a lot has happened. This past weekend was the group trip to Onuma! As an entire program, we journeyed to a much more rural area of Japan’s northernmost island (only about a 30 minute drive) where we were able to explore the beautiful little town, and stay in a more traditional style hotel. While the trip didn’t have an emphasis on progressing our skill of the Japanese language, it did help us get to know the other students in the program better.

Because the students studying here are of various skill levels, the classes are divided up making it hard to interact with students of different levels, especially when we’re only allowed to speak in Japanese at the school. Another way, however, that I’ve been able to befriend students in the program has been through the 文化講座, or the after school cultural courses. These have been various after school activities that focus on the culture, rather than the language, and are open to all the students as long as there are still spots available. As of now, I’ve done Kyudo, which is the Japanese form of archery, and Kendo, which is Japanese sword fighting. Both have been extremely fun and memorable, see photos/videos below, and I hope to participate in more in the future.

Since last time, I’ve also attended my first 会話テーブル, or language table, that the program offers. HIF recruits students studying at nearby colleges to come in and talk and play games with any of the HIF students that who are willing. This was a really good experience as it was my first time talking to a Japanese native who was my age, in Japanese. Like the cultural courses, I hope to attend more of these in the future as I feel that they are not only fun, but have improved my comfort in speaking the language much more.

Lastly, I’ve finally been able to start working on my IS. The HIF program requires all students to complete a self designed Individual Study (IS) project before being able to graduate. The topic is completely open-ended as each student creates the project and grading rubric by themselves. The only guideline is that the project should have something to do with the local Hakodate community, where you are interacting with the locals in one way or another. The proposal for our projects were due last week, and I decided that I wanted to play soccer with the locals. I haven’t exactly figured out how I’m going to do this, but I recently talked to some of the school’s staff who told me they would reach out to a few local high schools. I’m hoping that I can attend one or two of the high school’s practices and play myself. I play varsity soccer back in high school, and I participate on Keenan’s inter-hall team back at ND, so I think it would be really neat to be able to compare and contrast Japanese and American soccer play styles.

Initial Thoughts

Hello! Today is June 19th — exactly one week after I’ve arrived in Japan. Although I’m still adjusting to the time difference, my experience so far has been amazing. The first few days I stayed in a hotel with the rest of the students that are attending the same program. We went through a long and tedious, yet necessary orientation regarding Japanese culture, how to interact with out host families, and what to expect to get out of the program. It seemed a bit overwhelming at the time, but now that classes have started I’ve settled down a little bit. After staying at the hotel (and eating some pretty amazing food) we were all assigned to our host families.

My host family is a mother, father, and two big dogs — Tony and Mary. I’ve been living with them for a few days, but I’ve already grown more comfortable speaking Japanese with them. I’ve also determined that they can hardly speak any English, so while it will be a struggle at times, I know my Japanese will improve a lot.

Furthermore, class has also been pretty fun. Our teacher, 野間先生 (Ms. Noma), seems like a super cheer upbeat and cheerful teacher. I was initially nervous about having class for three hours a day, five days a week, but I’ve learned that the time is divided up smartly amongst three periods, with adequate breaks in-between. Furthermore class has also been quite entertaining, so the time passes by quickly. But although it’s been fun so far, I’ve realized how much more Japanese there is that I need to learn. It will be interesting to see how far I’ve come when I check in next.