My name is Jacob Smith and I am a Junior at USF. I am currently majoring in English Education and minoring in business. Last semester I received wonderful news that I had been selected to study abroad in Japan at Kansai Gaidai University along with three other students. It has been my dream to teach English in Japan for a long time now and this experience will give me further insight as to what it is like to live in Japan. I had done a self study of Japanese for 1 year before taking a placement test at USF. I was placed into Japanese III for the fall semester of 2014. I will be participating in homestay for my semester at Kansai Gaidai. I also signed up to have a language partner program that was offered on their website. I am really looking forward to meeting everyone!
To be honest, I was unaware of how much paperwork and time I would have to spend getting prepared study abroad. I am going to write an extra blog about the whole process for those who are interested in applying for this program. Sometimes it was quite hectic but it has already been worth it! One thing I will stress to everyone is to pack as little luggage as possible. I purchased a large travel backpack and a roller suitcase. I was able to fit 2 weeks worth of clothing along with other amenities. I left for Japan on the 14th of January so I could do some sight seeing before I start my semester at Kansai Gaidai. I flew into Haneda airport with three of my friends who were also picked for study abroad. We all parted our separate ways but have kept in touch via LINE (application for free international texts and calls). As a foreigner, one of the most difficult aspects of Japan is understanding the train schedules. It can be very challenging at times but everyone here is so nice and will be glad to help if you have questions. I first went to Niigata to see snow and meet with my Japanese friends. I went with her family to an 温泉（Japanese hot-spring) which was very interesting. I was very embarrassed the first time because you don’t wear any clothing into the spring.
This was taken right outside of the hotspring:
I stayed at her families house for three days. We went to many interesting restaurants and I tried many new dishes. On my last day there we all went over to her grandmother and grandfathers house. It was such a nice experience but very difficult for me at times because they spoke so fast in Japanese that it was hard to understand the conversation. According to her grandfather, I am the first American to come to their house in 65 years. I was pretty shocked to hear that. I left by 新幹線 (Bullet train) in the afternoon and arrived in tokyo 3 hours later.
1/20/15 Today I woke up around 8 a.m to go to my friend’s college. I sat near the college cafeteria and studied Japanese while I waited for her to finish her class. I think I startled a student this morning when I asked if I could sit in the chair next to him in Japanese. His expression was priceless when he looked up to see who was talking to him! For the three hours I was at her college, I didn’t see any other foreigners. After meeting with her, she showed me around her college and we had lunch. It was really interesting to see the differences between USF and a college in Japan.
Oh…another thing that I found very interesting was something that happened after we finished lunch. As we were exiting the building, I held the door open for two girls and a guy. Their expressions were that of astonishment followed by smiles and slight laughter. Well, now that confused me…so I asked my friend what just happened and she told me that it is not usual for people to hold doors open for the next person in Japan. She also stated that part of the reason may have been because I was a foreigner as well.
1/21/15 I was invited to a 鍋 (Nabe) party by my friend. 7 people met including me at her college and we all went to the super market from there. After we bought all of our ingredients we went back to Kyuuri’s apartment and started cooking. We stayed at his house from 6:30 pm until 12 am. All of the people who attended could speak English and practiced speaking with me. I had such a good time last night. Tomorrow will be my last day in the Yokohama area before going to Osaka to stay in my dorm for orientation week. I am really looking forward to starting the semester and meeting my homestay family!
This is 鍋: