Japanese students adapt to life in the United States

Exchange students talk about life in the U.S. and the many differences from Japan

By Grant Goodfellow, GoodfellowG@Findlay.edu

Exchange students from Japan moved to the University of Findlay for about two months ago and work to adjust to American education and culture.

Transitioning to the college life is hard enough but imagine how much harder it would be to go to a college in a different country. For the 21 Japanese students at UF this is their reality. Most of the students are in the United States to learn more about English as part of an exchange program. Some of the students will study at UF for a year, while some will only study for a semester before going back to university in Japan. The University accepts students from 10 Japanese universities.

Dr. Hiroaki Kawamura is an associate professor of Japanese at UF. According to Dr. Kawamura, when learning a language, it is very beneficial to be immersed in that language. That is one of the main reasons why students come to the United States to study English.

“Language learning is not limited to the classroom. The classroom is only a fraction of instruction,” Dr. Kawamura said. “Spending time with English speakers and for Japanese language learners spending time with Japanese speaking people, is an important part of language study.”

Dr. Kawamura also discussed the exchange of culture that occurs between Japanese students and American students. As the exchange students attend UF, they learn about English language and culture from the American students they interact with. Alternatively, UF students learn about Japanese culture by talking with exchange students.

“When exchange students are congregating themselves and speaking their own language, it’s hard for students to get in or talk to them,” Dr. Kawamura said. “Once you encourage yourself to speak to them and once conversation happens, things will be easier.”

A difficulty of the exchange problem includes adjusting to life in a new country. Japanese students Tsuyoshi Sato, Aoi Iwasaki, Misato Taguchi, Taisuke Hamasaki and Tomoki Shirane shared some of their thoughts and their experiences as exchange students.

“I miss Japanese food,” Taguchi said. “I want to eat Japanese rice and food made by my mom.”

There are many differences in Japanese and American education. One of the differences include that in Japan at school students are not allowed to eat while studying. In Japan, students also live off campus and some commute two hours to school each day.

“I was surprised because students live on campus,” Shirane said. “Japanese university students do not live on campus.”

Another difference is the way that the class is run.

“In Japan when we take lecture, we don’t say our opinion, we just listen,” Iwasaki said. “Now we talk a lot to each other and we say our opinions to the professors.”

There are many things that surprised the exchange students when they came to UF.

“In America we can turn right (while driving) when there’s a red light, but in Japan you cannot,” Sato said.

The events at the beginning of the year helped the Japanese students acclimate to their new environment and meet new people. The exchange students said they found the events held by UF helpful and enjoyable. For example, the recent Language Tasting event on Oct. 17 allowed students to learn more about American Sign Language, Spanish, and Japanese.

The exchange students offered some advice to anyone that travels to Japan. This advice includes taking off shoes before entering a house and saying “Itadakimasu” before eating a meal.

“Japanese people are very shy, so go up to talk to them,” Hamasaki said.

Students at UF can study abroad in Japan. According to Dr. Kawamura, this opportunity is open to anyone and doesn’t require Japanese language skills beforehand. For more information about learning a foreign language or studying abroad, students should contact language faculty or the Office of International Education.