Indiana University Overseas Study

ostaszewksti_sarah

With only about two weeks of classes left, the exchange students at Nanzan University have been busy studying, writing reports, and finishing up research projects.  On top of all the written homework, students are busy working part-time jobs, volunteering at day-cares, conducting interviews, and of course making plans for the holidays or the return trip home.  Classes are much busier for me as well.  I would like to share a bit about the elective and lecture courses’ content, as well as study methods for Japanese language courses.

For our “New Intensive Japanese” language classes, we must prepare for vocabulary and kanji quizzes and reading, writing, grammar and conversation tests.  Before conversation tests, the teachers invite Japanese students to speak with us.  Learning new grammar points and vocabulary is faster when we put the words into the context of an actual conversation.  Speaking with native speakers helps one pick up on the words’ connotation, too.

As for the grammar and kanji, the best plan for studying would be together with friends.  I try to study with Melissa or with friends as much as possible; information is much harder to retain long-term when I am studying by myself.  Because there are cumulative kanji tests, retaining both the meaning and kakikata (way of writing) is necessary.  To complete the reading and writing homework, remembering this information is unquestionably necessary!

The Japanese Culture and Language course has been rewarding.  Class is taught in English, and we discuss topics such as gender identity, politeness in the language, katakana loanwords, honorifics and humbleness, to name a few.  Lectures are casual, and students are often asked for their personal input on topics covered during class time.  Japanese students are enrolled in this course, but most of the students are from various regions of America.  There are students from Germany, Australia, Indonesia, Peru, and China,.  Because we all came from different backgrounds, grew up in different cultures, and speak different native languages, sharing and relating perspectives is especially interesting.  However, because students have so many stories and examples to share, class lectures may lose focus pretty quickly.

The slight disorganization of the course is the one downside for students.  Sometimes we do not end up covering all the material planned for one day.  To cope, read ahead and pursue further any appealing concepts; I like to ask Japanese friends their thoughts about the concepts from class.  This way they may still learn something new, too.  For our final projects, we much complete individual research papers, a group project presentation, and a short-answer test.  Each group first chose one topic, then completed research to present in class.  Presentation topics ranged from kaomoji to katakana in advertising to interactions with foreigners.  Presentations were entertaining, and conducting the research itself offered students amusing opportunities to speak with natives outside of the school environment.  I recommend this class to those of you joining the program in Nagoya!  The students’ own motivations really do make or break the class, so enjoy listening to others and sharing personal viewpoints.

Fieldwork Research Methods is definitely my top recommendation for courses.  The final project requires students to present their findings from their semester-long research journeys.  Students each chose a topic back in September; several students decided to continue ongoing research they had completed at their home universities.  From there, we have branched off into many different aspects of Japanese culture.

Several of us are focusing on relationships, others are studying behaviors of children in particular environments.  Folktales, modified cars, and festivals are among some of the more light-hearted projects.  Students have all found their own niche in choosing a topic and then conducting research.  In class, we discuss methods of how to best go about setting up interviews or participating directly in a related event.  Finding what works and what does not takes time, and setbacks are probable.  The experience of stepping outside the classroom and speaking with local residents has been amazing, though.  People have genuinely been interested in my research, and have gladly answered any of my questions.  By telling a bit about myself, as well as my interest in my research topic, I have found that individuals feel more open to then speaking about their own personal experiences.

I have learned a great deal by enrolling in this course.  This is another course taught in English, but because students must interact and speak with Japanese individuals, the language practice is built-in directly.  If you have a question about Japanese society, take this course – not only will you find answers, but you will come away with a deeper understanding.

Back at Indiana University, I would no doubt be preparing final papers and gathering test reviews at the end of the semester.  Wrapping up the semester will take a similar path here, but I still must make sure to not to miss out on any exploring.  These next two weeks are packed with tests and project deadlines, but with the finish line in sight I put forth my best efforts!  Finding balance between hanging out and studying is tough, especially for students with longer commutes or jobs.  Make the most of time by scheduling plans in advance and setting aside specific times to write essays.  Research projects are ongoing but offer built-in Japanese practice – no time or effort is wasted!

またね! Mata ne!

P.S. Yabai, by the way, is a very popular, somewhat slang term used to describe both good and bad things. The word is similar to sugoi, but the connotation has a more abrupt, surprised feeling.

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