January 29, 2010
Kathleen Harris is on a student exchange to Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan, where she is part of the Asian Studies program there. This is her postcard home.
Why go on an exchange to Japan?I am studying Japanese, Japanese history and Japanese art history, which I think are the foundational stones for a culture and need to be studied. I am studying abroad in Japan at Kansai Gaidai University because of the culture difference. I chose to study abroad now because it seemed like it would be the best way to experience many things and give me the best access to the culture.
What are the language and food like?I am studying Japanese and have a speaking partner, which has been a lot of fun, and she is an amazing girl. It becomes quite neat when you can go places and speak the language and understand most of what is being said back to you. It is also interesting interacting with the other international students, because everything is different, even within their own countries.
I am constantly trying new food. My favourites so far are the two Osaka specialties: okonomiyaki (a kind of cabbage pancake thing) and takoyaki (dough balls with octopus or meat inside). Finding squid and octopus packaged up and for sale in the grocery store was quite an interesting find.
Any interesting insights?My courses and daily experiences are helping me understand more about the subjects in the anime and manga that I watch and read. In doing “research” for writing, I have discovered a lot of interesting findings about myself and human society, and certain things have become clearer through an introspection and understanding that develops from being a foreign country and culture, especially when it has a foreign language.
Tell us about your experience at Hiroshima.I was lucky enough to hear an atomic bomb survivor speak, and she was so energetic and amazing. What I most wanted to do was give her a huge hug and thank her for talking to us as she had, for it must have been so hard for her. The amazing thing is that I left Hiroshima not sad, but invigorated, maybe because I came to the realization that I’m still alive. And the fact is that Hiroshima is not only there to remind the Japanese of what happened to their country, but for us to realize what the consequences of our actions are, and to try to remind us to always be aware of the repercussions of everything we do.
Final thoughts?If studying abroad (or even travelling), take all the opportunities that you can to travel and see the country that you’re staying in. Exchange programs are a one-of-a-kind experience, especially when you’re a student, because you never get this kind of time again, and it is the best time to be out and about. This has definitely broadened my understanding of being in foreign countries and the difficulty of having to use a second language that is completely different from my own.
For more information on study abroad programs please visit ucalgary.ca/cissa/studyabroad. This postcard was supplied by University of Calgary International.