I’m a couple weeks past the halfway point in my semester at Nanzan University here in Nagoya. Since it began, my semester has been full of exciting, new, and immersive experiences, but most days I’m just an ordinary student: attending classes, grabbing lunch with friends, finishing up a reading for class, and heading home to cook a quick dinner. I’ve become accustomed to my daily routine here at Nanzan, and while it’s completely different from my life back at Hope, it’s been a nice change.
Life at Nanzan compared to life at Hope has quite honestly been more manageable and less stressful for me. I have 1-2 classes per day, and us study abroad students get Wednesdays off, which has been a great way to break up the week. Weekends have been mostly open, apart from daily Japanese studying.
My mornings are spent in my Intensive Japanese language class, divided into two periods and totaling 3.5 hours of intense language instruction. It’s not a difficult class if I prepare, but the class requires prolonged focus, so my friends and I often feel tired by the time we’re done.
After a bite to eat at one of the cafeterias, I have around 2 hours to study (or nap) before my next class: Ikebana (Flower Arrangement) on Tuesdays, Japanese Religions on Thursdays, and Japanese Society on Fridays.
Ikebana is conducted entirely in Japanese and each week we work with different flowers to create an arrangement as instructed by the professor. It’s not easy, but I’m so grateful to experience such a unique class! Below are some of my arrangements:
Japanese Religions is a lecture-based course that focuses mostly on the two major religions of Japan: Shintoism and Buddhism. I expected to have lots of outside reading, but apart from a group presentation for the midterm, there’s been no other assignments! Japanese Society is a discussion and reading-based course, where we go over various topics like life courses, schooling, and ethnic minorities in Japan as well as our own countries and cultures. It’s been very informative, and my classmates come from all over the world, so I get a diverse range of perspectives, and share my own, too.
A few weeks ago, my friend and I decided to visit a cat cafe. Cat cafes are incredibly popular here in Japan, and unlike the I’ve been to in the U.S., I find Japan’s cat cafes a bit more exciting. We decided on Cafe Mocha, which is about a 30-ish minute train ride from Nanzan.
Cafe Mocha is home to a multitude of cats, and is an open space where you can study, play video games or board games, read, take a nap, and enjoy refreshments. The cats were enjoying their mid-afternoon nap when we arrived, so they weren’t the most social– that is until we purchased cat treats. Suddenly everyone was wide awake and willing to socialize.
Celebrate the small victories. Studying abroad is a great time to explore and experience new things, but it’s also a great time to discover new things and work on aspects of yourself. Since I came to Japan, here are some of my new developments, or small victories:
- Cooking for myself. This is something I never had to worry about at Hope, as a quick 3 minute walk to Phelps twice a day eliminated the need for it. Now I spend evenings parked in my shared kitchen with my living group in the evenings, experimenting with dishes and expanding my palette.
- Asking for help. It’s far too easy to maintain the Do-it-yourself mindset, but there are times where that’s just not possible. I’ve gotten more comfortable being willing to let go of my pride and approach people to ask things like: Does this train go to _ stop? I can’t read the kanji for it or Is there a store named _ here? I can’t seem to find it…
- Developing a study method for language learning. I’m not the best studier and I don’t enjoy it, but I’ve recently commit to developing a study routine that works for me. Cramming and ‘winging it’ only get me so far.
All of these are small victories, but valuable ones that have enhanced my experience in Japan. My December departure date is steadily approaching, so I don’t want to leave with any regrets.