Jessica Loving, a third-year Japanese major, has been learning Japanese since the sixth grade, but, despite her nine years of experience with the language and culture, she was dreading the college’s requirement for Japanese majors to study abroad for a whole semester on the other side of the world. She was incredibly nervous about being transported to a completely new place with new people, especially because she would not find out any information about her classes, her school, or even her host family.
When Loving arrived in Osaka, Japan after a 15-hour flight that included a two-hour layover in Tokyo, she was immediately overwhelmed; she still knew very little about what she was getting into and was trying to navigate a brand-new country. However, after the first week of orientation at her school, Loving was finally able to move in with her host family, which allowed her to get more comfortable and assimilate into her new environment, and she began to truly enjoy her experience.
Loving spent a full semester studying at Kansai Gaidai University, taking classes in Japanese, Kanji, ceramics, religion and art history. Her favorite class ended up being her ceramics class because of the relationship she formed with her professor, who taught her a lot, especially about Japanese vocabulary. She also enjoyed being able to create different pieces; throughout the semester in ceramics, she made over 25 bowls, cups and other dishware that she could take home with her and gift to friends and family.
During her time in Japan, Loving lived in Hirakata, which is located between Osaka and Kyoto, so she had the opportunity to visit both cities a lot during her time in Japan. One of her most memorable local experiences was visiting a food festival in Osaka with her host family.
“There were different tents for different regions, and each had different kinds of food. I really liked this giant cotton candy that’s really famous in Tokyo that I shared with [my host family],” Loving said. “I had a lot of food that day; it was really fantastic.”
She also lived very close to a train station, which gave her the ability to easily make her way to Tokyo, Fukuoka, Kobe and Nagasaki for short trips. When she visited Tokyo, Loving came across the Tsukiji fish market, which ended up being her favorite Tokyo destination.
“It was a really cool experience for me because many of the vendors I was speaking to didn’t know English, so I got to practice speaking and answering questions in Japanese with native speakers,” Loving said.
In the end, Loving discovered that studying abroad was an experience she would never trade. She learned a lot while abroad and got to visit many different and fun places that she probably never would have otherwise. By far, her favorite part of the semester was her host family. The family consisted of a mother, a father, a son and a daughter, all of whom she became very close with during her time in Osaka, and Loving continues to remain in regular contact with them today. In fact, she’s currently trying to come up with birthday gifts for her host sister and her host dad, both of whom have birthdays coming up in September.
Finally, Loving has some advice for other students preparing to study abroad: “No matter how nervous or unsure you are going into it, you’re going to come home missing it. At least a little bit. So make sure you get as much out of the experience as you possibly can.”