To family, friends, and fellow IU students,
I am Sarah Ostaszewski, a junior majoring in Anthropology and Studio Art with minors in Japanese and Art History. This Fall semester, I will attend Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan. I hope to present many different aspects of Japanese language and culture as well as tips I learn during my experience there.
This is not my first trip to Japan. Two summers ago, my high school Japanese class spent two amazing weeks in Kanagawa and Osaka. Visiting museums, temples, shrines, and the Great Buddha near Kamakura presented Japanese history and culture, but staying with host families allowed for perhaps the most memorable experiences. My twin, Melissa, and I were able to meet friends we had hosted in Crown Point, but we were then meeting them in their home country, sharing their ways of life. We tagged along to school, eateries, stores, and after-school activities, like purikura picture-taking.
Classes do not begin until September, but I will leave for Japan early to visit friends in Kanagawa. As soon as they heard the news that I would be studying abroad in Japan, my friends eagerly began the countdown along with me. It will be two years since I saw them, and I cannot wait to practice my (hopefully improved) Japanese conversation skills. Last week I found out who I will live with in Nagoya, and I could not be more excited. First impressions are highly valued in Japan, but starting off on the right foot may not be so hard when my host family, in fact, has interests in travel, gardening, and the arts! We may already have a few commonalities! Establishing connections, though, requires showing manners, respect, and appreciation for what is given.
Having been to Japan before, I am hoping on-site navigation will not be too daunting. Google Map has been handy this summer, as I have been checking and rechecking routes between train stations, school, friends’ homes, and must-see attractions. This is where all that kanji reading and writing practice becomes especially important. Reviewing grammar points is essential, too; you may end up asking someone for directions! Identifying major goals – making friends, trying new foods, and sightseeing – has kept me busy researching meisho (famous places) in the area and meibutsu (specialty dishes), like Nagoya’s hitsumabushi (an eel dish – sounds delicious!).
Study abroad programs were a major part of my college decision, so this overseas journey has been on my mind for quite a while. In class I have studied Japanese culture and language, but spending an entire semester abroad turns knowledge into action. Japanese will be heard and spoken all day, every day. Conversing and responding in Japanese will be difficult at times, but improvement only comes through steady practice.
With gift preparation complete and the struggle against the must-weigh-under-50-pounds suitcase over, I may return to reviewing kanji and useful vocabulary. Studying abroad offers a huge change from college life on IU’s campus, but the experience will no doubt be completely worthwhile.
Ikimashou! Shall we go?