My Japanese grandmother is the source of my fascination with Japan. Growing up she would tell me stories of her childhood there but I knew that without experiencing Japan for myself, I would never truly understand how incredible and drastically different it was from the States.
I started studying Japanese language as a freshman at Villanova and finally had the opportunity to go abroad in the spring semester of my junior year. I chose to go to Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka for a variety of reasons. I appreciated that many Villanovans had gone to Kansai Gaidai and had great things to say about the university. In terms of timing, this school followed a U.S. schedule (allowed me to have a full summer internship as opposed to many other Japanese universities whose spring semesters end in August). This university also has an unbeatable location. As it is in the center of Japan, friends and I were able to easily travel all over the country. We were 30 min from both the ancient city of Kyoto and the fast-paced technology hub of Osaka. We took the Shinkansen with one of my Poli. Sci. classes to Hiroshima, and some friends and I spent Golden Week (a semi 2nd spring break) in Tokyo. I loved that we were so close to so many wonderful places without having to literally be in the heart of one of those cities.
With majors in Global Interdisciplinary Studies and Honors and minors in Japanese and Political Science, I had no trouble finding courses that both interested me and fulfilled requirements for my degree. I ended up taking 4 classes: Japanese Language; Japanese Reading and Writing; Peace, Development, and Democratization; and Pacific Rivalry. If you don’t like the typical lecture-class, I would highly recommend taking anything with Dr. Paul Scott who used documentaries, field trips and guest speakers to make his classes really stand out.
In terms of friends, I really enjoyed how our classes included both Japanese and international students. Kansai Gaidai also did a great job pairing us Villanovans with Japanese students planning on studying in PA. From this the Japanese got a better sense of the U.S. and worked on their English and in return, helped us immensely with our Japanese and served as our unofficial tour guides throughout Japan.
If you apply to Kansai Gaidai, I would highly encourage you get involved in this program. I would also encourage you to make use of the university’s travel agency on campus. Beyond loving the school, and my host family, traveling throughout Japan was my favorite part of the semester. My best advice is to not waste a second. Japan is incredible; ancient and modern with the nicest and most respectful people I have ever met. Before my experience in Japan I was worried about my Japanese language skills not being sufficient to truly immerse myself in the culture and getting to know the people. I was also worried that I may be isolated from the rest of my peers as a homestay student. I am so thankful that I put myself out there because both these worries vanished as soon as I set foot in Japan. It may be daunting to consider studying abroad in such a foreign country but I promise you won’t regret it!