When I logged on today, my first thought was that not much had gone on in the past week to warrant a new post. But I’ve been here a month now, and stuff that seems routine may not seem that way to anyone reading this. For starters, late last week the Japanese students arrived at Kansai Gaidai. Bizarrely enough, for the first few weeks the only people here were the international students at the Centre for International Education (or the CIE, as everyone here calls it), and the sports teams. Then overnight, the previously deserted campus lost its eerie 28 Days Later atmosphere and filled up with students. As all Japanese students preparing for a year out do their lessons in the CIE, it’s now not such an Anglophone bubble, which is a relief. As much as I try, I still end up speaking more English than Japanese everyday.
It’s as if I have two languages to contend with; Japanese in my language classes and everyday life, and American English in my studies class (and a fair amount of socialising). A lot of the Asian studies teachers are American, and often use the word ‘we’ or ‘our’ during lectures without really thinking about how the Brits, Aussies, Chinese, Spaniards, Swedes, Germans, or other nationalities may feel about this. It’s an odd situation, especially as I see some students from the U.S. who have obviously never thought about how they can or should relate to people form different cultures, and still don’t have to think about it, thanks to the large American presence here. I find it sad to think that some people can spend a semester (or even a year) here and return home none the wiser.
This only seems sadder when I think of the conversation I had at lunch today with a girl called Scarlett. She’s Chinese, but lived and studied in the States for five years. She remarked to herself, “I wouldn’t want to go back there” as if it was just a few months’ stay. Then she added “Actually, it was more like six years, but every summer I went back for three months, so if you take those out it’s five.” I tried to imagine living in a place for six years and seeing yourself as just a student there, flying back to your real home every summer. I knew people in college who did that for two years, and I thought they were brave. I admire this girl. It must take some special quality to live like that, the kind of quality not many people seem to have, the kind of quality I hope one day to gain. That’s what I want from this year abroad; not the experience of having lived somewhere for a year, but the certainty that I can live anywhere I want for as long as I want. Not one more thing finished, but a host of new things to do.