As the semester (and trip abroad!) winds down, we ryuugakusei must balance time preparing for final exams, papers and presentations with time meeting friends and exploring new destinations. I hope to make the most of my time in Japan by not only making the grades, but also enjoying all this unique culture has left to offer.
After three months at Nanzan University, I have made several comparisons between Japanese class here and Japanese class back at Indiana University. Japanese class still meets five times a week; this is nothing new for those studying Japanese at IU! However, these classes begin at 9:20 and usually end at 12:35—the time spent in class is much greater. A couple of hours each week are spent introducing and reviewing material that we may be tested over, which includes grammar and vocabulary. The yomimono activities can also be regarded as review time; this reading material shows up on tests, too. Otherwise, we participate in various activities revolving around Japanese culture and language customs.
Activities may include learning the language skills and phrases necessary in certain situations (making reservations by phone, giving directions, etc.), essays, skits, debates (the latest of which had to do with social media) and speaking together with Japanese students. Skits are similar to dialogue checks, and are performed in front of classmates or with the sensei. Much more time is specified for pair-work activities than at IU. After pair activities we, along with the teacher, may discuss the topic and correct any misunderstandings. Each class has been made up of short lectures dispersed between group activities. This schedule is much different from IU’s separation of lecture and discussion.
Generally, the organization of class time here at Nanzan University leaves little room to complete homework and review for tests; we must make time to accomplish these tasks outside of class, and for some of us, this may be overwhelming. Especially for those making final plans before they return home, time management is essential. Here, I offer tips that have worked well for me:
- Take advantage of lunch time! Meet with Japanese friends and fellow ryuugakusei to discuss assignments and complete homework.
- While waiting for the bus or subway, pull out the kanji and tango packets for quick review.
- There are numerous cafés and restaurants here in the city—gather some friends and study together! I’m sure group study is familiar to many of us at IU.
- Review homework and ask questions in the TA sessions on campus.
- If you live with a host family, talk to them about appropriate phrasing for questions when creating questionnaires for that research presentation!
- Interview your host family or Japanese dorm mates. Keep in mind that they may be more willing and less nervous when the questions are presented as a conversation!
- Have a Japanese friend recommend online sites with Japanese articles when compiling literary sources for papers.
As for time spent outside of class, I suggest walking, running, riding bikes, or taking the bus for a ride throughout Nagoya. Instead of trains, Nagoya’s main railway system is an underground subway network. Although traveling above ground may take longer, one can observe more along the streets. Because I ride the bus, I have gained a good sense of direction and know the city’s layout fairly well. I have also discovered many shops and restaurants this way—a great example would be the delicious donut café located on a quaint street in Kakuozan. How does a green tea scone or salty chocolate donut sound? What about an avocado vanilla smoothie?
Hopefully these suggestions help guarantee a successful semester’s end! With a month left at Nanzan University, I have already started arranging plans so that I may complete schoolwork efficiently and accurately while also making time for play. Let’s keep going!