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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Katrina in Japan

Katrina Johnson ’19, a double major in Business and Asian Studies with a Japanese Language Concentration, is studying at the Kansai Gaidai University in Japan.

Hey y’all, 

Whether you’re already aware you would like to study and are deciding where to go or you haven’t thought about it yet, I hope this can shed some light on what it might be like for you studying outside of the country. I also hope this encourage you to study abroad in Japan! Also, I apologize ahead of time for this disorganized mess. I have many feelings and I just love Japan, okay? 

So, yes, Japan. I love Japan. SO MUCH. As much as I also love Lake Forest College and my home state of Texas, I really don’t want to go back yet. I’m not ready. There’s so much here that I’ve still left to do, and it seems too early of me to return. It’s coming up on seven months in total that I’ve lived here (not including the short three week break I spent back in the U.S. for visa purposes), and I’ve grown rather attached to the lifestyle here (I am forever thankful to the convenience stores and IC Cards). I was lucky enough to have been matched with a fine host family my first semester here, and though we were able to meet during Fall break of this semester for dinner, I miss them most days now that I’m living in a dorm. 

In light of my return to campus, I’m here to talk at you about why Japan is where you should come to visit. These are some recommendations I have for you. 

For all its similarities, Japanese culture differs in many ways from what you may be used to. This is the best opportunity for you to learn outside of yourself. Do your research ahead of time about Japanese culture. Get involved early in learning the language, even if you just learn how to say thank you or sorry. Why? The great thing about Japan, I’ve found, is that most people here are appreciative of your effort. Even if you get stares, which is a common occurrence for foreigners, most people here are glad to see others taking an interest in Japan and Japanese culture. 

Speaking of the Japanese language itself, I highly recommend studying past basic phrases. Yeah, of course you don’t have to, but it’s such an interesting language and will make communicating here so much easier. It is definitely is worth your time. 

There is also a bit of a drinking culture here. Don’t be afraid to say no to drinks if you feel uncomfortable, but don’t always pass up the opportunity to go out with your peers even if they do want to go drinking. The company is what matters. 

Traveling and living in Japan can get expensive sometimes. Make sure to budget properly and set your priorities so you can make the most of your resources. 

Try new foods and local fares. Join a club or two, but realize that schools clubs in Japan are important and require a certain amount of dedication and attendance. 

Go stay out all night singing karaoke. Attend some festivals. 

Try as best you can to live like a local. 

Truly, it’s impossible to sum all of my experiences and thoughts about my time here. For all that I can describe to you, there’s just as much you need to experience for yourself. Japan is more than just words. Please, come here and see for yourself. 

I hope everyone is doing well, and I’m looking forward to greeting everyone in the Spring. If you have any specific questions about any of my time here in Japan, just send me an email! 

皆勉強頑張ってね! 

Minna benkyō ganbatte ne! 

Good luck with your studies!