By Honoka Ihara
English Language Program
I was in elementary school when I decided to go to the United States to study. The trigger was a trivial thing. I listened to foreign songs and watched foreign movies, and I simply wanted to be able to speak English. I also longed to live in the U.S., which is very different from Japan. From there I began to study English. I asked my parents to go to an English cram school.
I also attended the English Department in high school and enrolled in the English Literature Department at university. My plan was to study abroad during my second year of college. However, in 2020, the year I entered college, the Covid pandemic happened. My college life became completely different from what I had imagined. My first year of college, I never went to college and took all of my classes online. My college had many foreign professors, and I looked forward to taking their classes. I wanted to chat with them in English after class. However, taking classes online meant no interaction with the professors. Furthermore, international students who would have come to Japan every year were no longer able to come to Japan to study due to Covid-19. My college had a “conversation partner” program, and I had been looking forward to participating in such programs, but I was no longer able to do so. I have two older sisters and when they were in college, they really seemed to enjoy it. Knowing that, I was really disappointed compared to my own college life. Despite this, I prepared myself from the first year so that I could go study abroad in my second year. After passing the internal selection process, I was selected to study abroad in the academic year 2021. However, as it turned out, the study abroad program for the year 2021 was also cancelled. 2021 was still in the midst of the Corona epidemic, and I was only able to go to about half of the colleges, so I was prepared for the possibility that the program would be cancelled, but I was still shocked. In 2022, after one more year, I was able to study at Chatham University.
In Japan, I was not able to do things that are typical of university students, but since coming to the U.S., I have experienced many different things. There were also many things that I did not notice when I was in Japan. What struck me most was that Americans are not afraid to leave or throw away food. In Japan, leaving food behind is not considered a good thing. Of course, it may not be considered a good thing in the US either. However, while eating dinner in a dining hall, I noticed that many Americans leave the pizza crust behind. Some people leave other things that they just had a bite of. Seeing this happen, I once thought to myself, “They must have left it because it didn’t suit their palates.” The extreme case is there is a trash can in the area where we return the dirty dishes. That trash can is divided into two types: one for paper napkins and other trash, and the other for throwing away leftover food. I was surprised when I saw that for the first time because I had never seen trash cans in Japan for throwing away leftover food scraps. I heard that the leftovers are used as animal feed, and I was surprised that the trash cans were built on the premise that leftovers would be thrown out. In Japan, there are probably people who have no objection to leaving food behind, but most people are taught by their parents or teachers not to leave food behind as much as possible. So many Japanese people are resistant to leaving food behind. I think this is a good thing about Japan that I noticed when I came to America.
Thus, since coming to the U.S., I have had many opportunities to learn about the good qualities of Japan. Before studying abroad, I did not expect to think about my home country because I thought I would discover many things about the United States. However, I thought that it is because I live in a different country from my home country that I notice the good things about my home country. Conversely, before I came here, I had an image of America as being very beautiful and everything was wonderful compared to Japan. I think that coming to the U.S. has broadened my perspective in many ways. From this perspective, I would like to identify good and bad points and use them as material to improve myself. For me, studying abroad is not only about learning English, but also about myself. I want to apply what I have realized through studying abroad to my future life.