We met with Linka on a sunny day at the end of May at Tokyo International University (TIU). It has been almost 2 months since she started her journey to Japan with the Japan Studies Program (JSP). We would like to share our short conversation with her here. We hope it will give you a few interesting insights into the life of JSP students.
TIU Staff: Hi Linka, would you mind telling us something about yourself?
Linka: Hi! I’m Linka, a sophomore from Willamette University. Our university is a sister school to TIU. I have known about the Japan Study Program (JSP) for a while, and since I am taking Japanese as my major at Willamette University, I decided to join JSP at TIU to improve my Japanese, and to know more about Japan. So far, it’s been a wonderful experience.
TIU Staff: How was your first week after joining JSP?
Linka: It was very hectic! I arrived on Friday, April 8th and was picked up at the airport by TIU’s Peer Assistants (PA). They are Japanese students who volunteer to support international students like myself to get used to new life in Japan. The next day, I was introduced to my host family and I had only Saturday and Sunday to settle down. Class started on Monday. Everything was going very fast so I forgot about the time. Jetlag didn’t hit me until the next week after my arrival, but it wasn’t too bad. I had fun at school with friends so I didn’t really feel tired.
TIU Staff: Can you tell us about your host family? How do you communicate with them?
Linka: My host family is a little unusual. My host is a single grandmother in her 80s, and she only speaks Japanese. I think it is because I have studied Japanese 3 years prior to this trip that I was matched with her, but to be honest, my Japanese level can only help me to pick up every other word from her. I could only understand 50% of what she said so it was quite challenging for me. Regardless, my host is a very sweet lady. She has been taking me places for shopping and telling me a lot of things about Japan. It’s been 2 months since I moved in with her, I’m gaining much more confidence with my Japanese, and I think I can understand 80% of what she is saying now.
TIU Staff: Your Japanese sounds so fluent already. Do you still need to take Japanese classes?
Linka: Yes, of course! There was a placement test and I was placed in the class suitable with my current level. There is still a lot to learn to master the language. I spend 12 hours per week for in class for Japanese, plus we have a lot of homework and quizzes. The class is taught only in Japanese, no English. It’s hard, but it forces you to constantly be thinking. I also spend a couple of times per week to studying in the Japanese PLAZA. I try to finish my homework for the day before I go home.
TIU Staff: The Japanese PLAZA is the newest facility at TIU campus. Could you tell us more about it?
Linka: There is a place called “Terakoya”, which is translated as “Small temple class” in the Japanese Plaza. The Japanese language teachers are always be there in case any student need any help with their homework or has a question. I can just ask any of the teachers to check on my homework and give me advice on my grammar. There is a “Japanese only” rule in the plaza so I feel that it’s a good place to practice my Japanese speaking skills.
I can just ask any of the teachers to check on my homework and give me advice on my grammar
TIU Staff: We are happy to know you are enjoying your study at JSP. However, are there any difficulties you had to face when joining this program?
Linka: I wouldn’t say there were any difficulties. It’s just that we weren`t very confident if we could go out on our own without getting lost in Tokyo. It’s a little bit scary to try navigating the train system for the first time. Luckily, we have the Peer Assistants. They not only help us at school, but the PAs also want to hang out with us in their free time as well. During the weekend, they have taken us on trips to Tokyo. There are many destinations we had only heard of before coming to Japan, and now we could visit for real, like the Tsukiji fish market, Nezu temple or the Robot cafe. There was no way we could do it ourselves without the help of the PAs at first.
TIU staff: It’s been very interesting talking with you. Thank you very much for time Linka. Before we end the interview, is there anything you want to tell our future JSP students?
Linka: I think that everything can feel really overwhelming for quite a while when you get here. I think my biggest advice would be don’t be afraid to mess up. If you don’t understand what’s going on in class, just say so. If you get a little lost, you’ll be ok. Everyone understands that you’re doing your best, so if you’re afraid, it will only hold you back.