Assistant Abroad Part 1: Off to Osaka
With just one day to go until I depart, this is a bit of a last-minute introduction, but here goes! My name’s Hannah and I’m a student of Japanese and Russian at university. On the 29th of August, I leave for Japan, where I’ll be living until early January. During my time there, I’ll be keeping a blog for Manga Market about my experiences!
In case it isn’t clear, I do enjoy reading manga and watching anime, and that was what started me on the road to where I am now. At the age of about 13 or 14, shortly after being introduced to Naruto by a friend, and a while after I bought one of those “Japanese in 10 minutes a day” books, I decided that I wanted to learn Japanese properly. Generally I can be quite a lazy person, so unless I’m really motivated I don’t really keep up with studies, and using a book to teach myself wasn’t the best of ideas! Also I wanted to learn how to say more than “This is a table”, “The pen is green” and “Where is the train station?” – as a rule, anime and manga tend to be full of slightly more complicated phrases and you don’t learn how to cuss like Hidan from Naruto in Japanese books for beginners! So, I found a tutor and studied Japanese slightly sporadically on and off outside of school. In my first year of sixth form I finally got round to sitting an exam, and passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 4, which is recognised in Japan. However, when it came to A-Levels, I put Japanese lessons on hold and concentrated on university applications.
Initially, I hadn’t intended to do Japanese at university, putting it as my second choice of course, but sometime during A-Levels I suddenly decided that I wanted to continue my Japanese. It seemed like the best way of keeping it up and even becoming fluent. So in September I started my first year at university, studying Japanese and Russian. However, I somehow ended up doing just well enough in the placement test to have a trial run in intermediate classes. As the first semester ended and the year went on, I found myself watching less anime and instead writing essays and presentations. After passing my January exams, I was told that I would be going to Kansai Gaidai University, located in Osaka, southern Japan. Kansai Gaidai has a number of partner institutions throughout Europe, six of those universities located in the UK, so I’ll have the opportunity to meet other British students while abroad!
Something both exciting and daunting is that I’ll be staying with a Japanese family rather than in university accommodation, as I think it’ll be the best way to get good at Japanese fast- I’m only in Japan for half of this academic year as opposed to most of the other students in my year, who are there for the whole year. This means that I’ll really be experiencing typical Japanese life in a family! However, it also means that I’ll have to be on my best behaviour- for a homestay to really work, I’ll need to cooperate with my family and obey any household rules and customs they have that I may not have encountered at home. While reading about homestays on the internet has made me a bit nervous (Kansai Gaidai have sent me several emails warning me about what to expect and how to behave in rather a serious tone!), all homestay students have filled out a questionnaire according to their preferences, so will hopefully be placed in the best possible environment for them. Any students who’ve had second thoughts have been given several chances to change their mind, and if the worst comes to worst, students are free to leave the homestay at any time and move into university accomodation. I hope that it won’t be the case for me and that my homestay will be enjoyable and useful!
So, from when I arrive in Japan on the 30th until I leave in early January, I’ll be posting on the blog from time to time about my experiences and thoughts about my first visit to the birthplace of manga and anime!