Some time ago, I came across this link to an exchange student’s speech on why he came to Japan. (Note: later found out this guy was also at Kansai Gaidai. Small world, eh? I don’t think we spoke at all, though.) Anyway, commenter Mayumi recently asked why I came to study in Japan. This is still a big question for me. I still can’t give an exact answer to why I’m studying Japanese, but it’s become such a part of my life now that I can’t really feel like anything else is as important – not even English, the other half of my degree, and until last year my favourite subject.
I guess part of the answer is luck. The year I chose subjects for my GCSEs, Japanese was on there for the first time. So I picked it, sort of on a whim, because I’d never studied anything like it before and I was curious. I did pretty well, but lost interest in 6th Form, when it was all about constantly revising kanji. I let the spoken language slide, and got through with a decent pass. I’d already applied to Leeds to do English and Japanese, as they were my two favourite subjects and I wanted to continue them.
My academic performance in my first year at uni wasn’t exactly stellar – in fact, I ended up having to convince my tutors to let me go on the year abroad. This was partly because due to my previous experience, I didn’t take Japanese lessons for the first semester. Once I arrived, everyone had their own social groups and I found it quite hard to fit in. I made friends, but felt like I didn’t have much of an investment in my work. So I let things slip.
Of course, once I actually got here, things changed. I had a reason to speak Japanese, to learn Japanese, to engage with everything around me. And once I get back, I’m going to carry on. There’s so much I’ve learned, and so much I want to learn. I only hope I’ve managed to put a little bit of it across on this blog.