Towards the end of my freshman year at Villanova, a friend of mine showed me a Japanese television show he had been watching. I had never seen any Japanese shows and it was my first time hearing the language. I liked the way it sounded and on a whim decided to take a Japanese language course at a local college that summer. I enjoyed it so much that upon returning to Villanova I enrolled in more Japanese courses and continued to study the language.
I'm very glad that I decided to minor in Japanese Studies at Villanova. I was able to take my initial interest in Japanese and gain a working knowledge of the language as well as come to appreciate the culture. My Japanese courses at Villanova were some of my most enjoyable ones. The professors in the department genuinely love teaching about Japan and it really shows in the classroom.
When I first expressed an interest in studying abroad, my professor gave me information on a few programs. I eventually chose to attend a summer program at Waseda University. The program I attended at Waseda was a five-week summer program. Not only was it my first time in Japan, but also my first time out of the country. We spent the first week of the program studying at the Waseda Seminar House in Kamogawa. Although I was excited to get to Tokyo, this first week was a really memorable experience. All fifty of us, including our teachers, lived, ate, and studied in the same house. It afforded us the chance to all become close so, by the time we arrived in Tokyo, we already had friends to explore the city with.
After a week in Kamogawa, we spent the rest of the summer on the Waseda campus in Tokyo. This was where I really felt like a part of the Japanese community. I was able to use the Japanese I had learned at home to speak to all kinds of people.
Part of my program at Waseda included a weekend homestay with a Japanese family in Ina-shi, Nagano. This was an amazing experience. My host family was very warm and welcoming – they really made me feel like a part of their home. That weekend there was a festival in Ina-shi. I helped carry a dragon with my host father while the mom and their two daughters danced in the parade. I was even interviewed during the festival on the local news. It has been over three years since that initial homestay and my host family and I keep in touch to this day. When I vacationed in Japan last summer with my brother, we visited my host family in Ina-shi and stayed with them for a few days. It felt like I had never left.
My experience in Japan was one I will never forget. Being immersed in a different culture really opens up your view of the world. I made friends in Japan from all over the world, some of whom I've been fortunate enough to meet up with on their trips to the United States. The Japanese courses I took at Villanova were not only enjoyable, but also led to a truly rewarding experience abroad.