I think I got what I needed at International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese Language Program at ICU was a good training that was well-balanced in all four skills of the language - listening, reading, speaking, and writing. All the courses were thoughtfully planned. As I worked my way up to advanced courses, I was often challenged to give a speech in Japanese in front of the class, write essays on current issues, have a group discussion, and have it recorded, evaluate my own speech, interview other students at ICU, make a skit, and so on.
Frankly, there were times when I was stressed over the assignments, tests, and all the work given. So I felt like giving up on everything: staying up all night at a nearby 24-hour restaurant and cramming Kanji (logographic Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese writing system) for the test in the morning was not so fun, after all. However, I can never deny the fact that those endeavors have facilitated my language learning and my hard work has been paid off.
Also, my year at ICU was an invaluable opportunity for me to encounter and take in the new culture. I think the dorm life at ICU took up a major part of my life in Japan. I’m glad I chose - or got chosen - to live in a dorm on campus, because that was where I met most of my Japanese friends that I would not have met otherwise. They were the people, who from the very start, helped me out adjust to my new life in Japan and eventually became the basis of my perception of Japan.
From exchanging a simple aisatsu (greetings in Japanese) on the hallway to occasional Takoyaki and Nabe parties in the social room, my life at ICU mostly consisted of events taking place at the dorm. One of the most memorable events was eating noodles on the New Year’s Eve. Though I was miles away from my family and friends in Seoul on the New Year’s Eve, I had my dorm friends to keep me company. I am grateful that I got to experience the everyday lives of the people in Japan through my friends at the dorm because I believe there are things that just cannot be learned in a classroom.
One more thing that I am glad I did was to take a variety of courses during my stay at ICU. Studying a year abroad was a good change for me to focus solely on the pleasure of learning, because I was not worried about getting either a bad or a good grade for once in my life. So I went for anything I found interesting at ICU.
Instead of sticking to what I had been studying at Ewha, which were English education, I chose to take a little challenge in Japan and tried out new courses like Japanese Archaeology, Politics in Southeast Asia, and Biblical Hebrew.I may have chosen my courses on a whim, but I believe they have broadened my perspective and allowed me to give and have a lot more thoughts and ideas as to what I want to study and what I want to do in the future.
To sum up, I surely have obtained a lot of things during my year at ICU: I was able to accomplish my goal of polishing my language skills, learn and observe new culture, and explore different fields of studies. All in all, I believe these are the must-have souvenirs for anyone who studies abroad or plans to do so in the future.
*Lee Yeon-woo (English Education, 4) studied at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan.