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Name: Kevin Vanselous
Major: Asian Studies
Program: Kansai Gaidai’s Asian Studies Program
Where: Osaka, Japan
When: Fall 2007- Spring 2008
Highlight: Going out to eat with not just Japanese friends but friends from all over the world.
Best Excursion: Kyoto because it is such a historical and fun city.
Favorite Dish: Sushi or Yakiniku
Next Destination: Back to Japan and then to Korea or Hong Kong
Describe your living situation.
I lived in Seminar House 1 for the academic year because out of the four seminar houses, this one had the second smallest number of students (about 65), meaning it was a rather intimate place to live. The dorm is about a fifteen to twenty minute walk from the campus, or about a five to ten minute bike ride. I chose to walk to school most days because it was very pleasant walking through the neighborhood on the way to school. The dorm had two stories: the top was reserved for girls, while the first floor was for guys. Each floor had its own kitchen, shower room, laundry room, and bathroom. On the second floor was a communal computer lab and on the first floor was the lounge which had vending machines and a nice little porch and table just outside. The lounge and kitchens all had televisions with dvd players. For the comfort of students, all the individual and communal rooms had air conditioning and heating. Furthermore, the individual rooms had internet access which was very convenient, though the connection speed was not always ideal. If I had to describe it in a word it would definitely be cozy. As a result I really liked Seminar House 1 and recommend it for any who wish to stay in the dorms.
Right outside is a nice, little park that was really nice for running, walking, or just hanging out with friends. As one may have guessed, the housing and developments in Japan are generally a lot denser than one might be used to which makes relations with neighbors far more intimate. More than anything, noise level at night was a big issue because the town was very quiet to begin with and students’ voices and commotion were more bothersome to our Japanese neighbors than they realized. Other than that, the location was ideal for me because it was not overwhelmed by the commotion of city life, nor was it too boring and isolated like rural life. There were also a lot of great cities like Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara within relatively close proximity to the dorm. In other words, there was always something to do or some place to go.
What is one piece of advice you would pass on to a student who is about to study abroad?
Of course everyone should make the best of his or her time abroad since it is an opportunity to experience a different culture and its people-- not to mention that it's extremely refreshing to break away from the routine of your life. For some, however, this is not so easy because shyness and anxiety often keep us locked up in our comfort zones, but being at least a little more outgoing and adventurous than normal is important. The best way to do this is to befriend the native people of whatever country in which you happen to be studying abroad and become immersed in the new culture as much as possible. If that is too much, then become friends with a student studying abroad like yourself that is really outgoing and can give you a little push to take a little risk and have fun.
How was the experience of studying the language in the classroom (in high school or in college) prior to studying abroad different from the experience of studying the language in and outside of the classroom once you were abroad?
Studying Japanese in high school and at Temple was very beneficial, and I enjoyed it very much. Normally, however, the opportunities to use my Japanese or practice Japanese were very limited, but when studying Japanese in Japan it was far more enjoyable. It is not that you have to study abroad in order to gain proficiency in a foreign language; it is just that studying abroad makes learning a foreign language so much more fun, since you are immersed and engaged in the language you study. I also felt that my skill improved much more quickly while in Japan than it would have if I had remained in the U.S. So if you have the opportunity, I definitely suggest you study abroad, even if it is only for a summer or semester.