Studying in the Japanese Countryside

Grace Gettig
Major: Japanese and Global and International Studies
Daito Bunka University, AY 2018-2019

はじめまして。グレースと申します。専攻は日本語と国際関係で、五年生です。今学期、日本の大東文化大学に留学しています。

Hello! My name is Grace. I am a 5thyear Japanese and Global & International Studies double major at Western Michigan University (WMU). Currently, I am spending one year studying abroad in Japan.

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The university I am studying at is Daito Bunka University (DBU). It is located in a little mountain town in Saitama Prefecture. To travel to Tokyo by train takes about two hours, so we have the peace and quiet of the countryside but also easy access to the big city. The Higashimatsuyama campus, the one I will be going to, is surrounded by nature. Surprisingly, I would even say it’s greener than WMU’s main campus. There are trees everywhere, and I mean everywhere, and that means plenty of wildlife to go along with them. Since it’s still summer here, you hear the cicada’s call humming throughout the campus. It was cool to see one of the other international students, a girl from Germany, be amazed by the sounds. She hadn’t heard cicadas back home before, so this was totally new for her. Now, the town itself is pretty laid-back too. Even rush hour is not all that crazy. This is the kind of town where everyone knows everyone else. They all know each other’s business.

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I really wanted to go to DBU and live in this area to experience a part of Japan that most tourists don’t. They don’t see the farmer plowing his fields, the housewife sweeping her porch, or the schoolboy riding his bike to class. They don’t see regular people living their everyday lives, or at least it’s harder to notice those things in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city. The biggest reason why I wanted to study here is because this is the most immersive option in the Japan study abroad program at WMU. At DBU, there are about twenty new international students this year, and only five of us speak English. Compare that to one of the bigger universities, like Keio University which just welcomed nearly 200 new international students, with many of them being European. For us at DBU, our common language is Japanese. That forces me to use the language to communicate with my peers. Sure, it’s kind of scary, but the sense of accomplishment when I am able to have a conversation with someone makes up for that.

My hope is that by working really hard in my classes, getting a part-time job, having a language partner, and getting involved on campus, my Japanese language abilities will improve significantly by the time I return home. This whole year will probably be way outside my comfort zone, but that’s the best way to grow as a person (for me at least). As the WMU Office of Student Engagement says, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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