Motivations for taking Japanese:
I actually began studying Japanese in eighth grade at my junior high school. I was fortunate to be recommended for the honors program and continued throughout high school and was awarded a foreign language department award and also was a member of the Japanese Language Team that competed in a New England language competition in Boston my Junior year. One of the reasons that I decided to attend Villanova was the offering of a Japanese Minor for all students. While I learned the basics of the language in high school, I had a desire to be exposed to more authentic and functional Japanese language and cultural teachings. The Japanese Studies Program at Villanova provides students with opportunities to practice their Japanese with native speaking foreign exchange students through weekly conversation sessions. Time spent informally conversing in Japanese has helped me to develop more authentic pronunciation, sentence structure, and has provided me with the confidence to better “think on my feet” in Japanese, per say.
The in class experience is a critical and important factor in the development of more authentic Japanese learning and understanding. Upper-level course offerings that utilized Japanese literature for the basis of study have not only provided me with valuable insight into cultural practices through children’s stories and other popular literature, but have provided me with necessary practice in reading and writing. These experiences have given me the ability to use Japanese literature as a way of independently expanding my knowledge.
The Japanese Studies Program has allowed me to continue my study of the Japanese language, culture, and customs in an adaptable atmosphere allowing me to focus on an aggressive curriculum while pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering. This has provided me with a rare combination of technical and foreign language skills that is preparing me for the increasingly globalized world in which we live.
Study abroad experience at PII:
As an engineer it is sometimes difficult to find enough flexibility to take a semester abroad. This led me to enroll in Princeton in Ishikawa Study Abroad Program, an 8 week Japanese study program that is offered during the summer through Princeton University. The program is located in Ishikawa Prefecture and is partially subsidized by the local government. It offers students the experience of living with a host family for the summer while taking Japanese courses that focus on Japanese literature and conversation.
The most rewarding aspect of the program was not only to be subjected to Japanese life on a daily basis, but also the time I spent with my host family in the evenings and on the weekends. I was able to develop my conversational and listening skills while at the same time experiencing what Japanese family life was like. Activities with my host family included traveling to Tokyo for a week of sight-seeing and seeing Tokyo after dark and after business hours as well as having the honor of attending my host sister’s wedding, which many non Japanese people never experience. By the end of the summer, I certainly felt as though I was regarded as a member of my host family. This was an invaluable experience for me and one that I will remember and cherish my whole life.
Ishikawa Prefecture is a place that offers interesting tourist areas, plenty of fun for exchange students, and a full immersion into the Japanese language and culture. While very active and populated it offered me insight to not only the “hustle and bustle” of Japanese life, but also the quiet times in the western part of the country. I recommend Princeton in Ishikawa to anyone who would like to spend the summer abroad, but more importantly I recommend that anyone considering time abroad seek a program offering a home stay experience.