Soo Hyun Hwang is an exchange student from Korea and has been a student at Ohio University since the summer of 2008. She is currently in Japan for the Japanese language study program offered at Chubu University.
As an international student in America, where English is spoken, the most important thing I have learned is another language. I have been studying English for a while, but my English started from zero again as soon as I arrived in the U.S. Everything I had learned before coming to the U.S. was “in-class” English. Although it provided me a good base to learn English further, I had to learn English again from the beginning to acquire the “real” English.
This would be the biggest reason why I chose to participate in the Chubu program. The Japanese classes taught at OU were very organized and concise, but I need to learn Japanese in a long-term view, not just as a college requirement, if I want the Japanese language as one of my advantage in the future. Even though my Japanese is still at the basic level, the things that I have heard and seen in Japan already have helped me improve.
During my stay in Japan, I want to try to learn more from people and travel – something I cannot experience in class. I think it would be the same idea for other students, too, focusing more on outside experiences in Japan rather than just classes.
However, if I pick one reason it would be different from other students in my exchange group, it would be because I am a Korean. I was able to be a sort of a mediator among our group since Korea and Japan share a part of their culture. I admitted this quickly and explained that some things would be a culture shock to others.
Still, it also kind of put pressure on me at the same time since the Japanese expected me more than the others to act like what they thought was in their manners, and sometimes I even felt like they treated me as a Japanese person – probably because we resemble each other more than other Western people.
Some international students like me may be confused about their status in Japan, and I struggled with that as well at first. However, I think there are many opportunities and positive outcomes that that international students can make in a study abroad program. I am enjoying a valuable opportunity in my life, so I have no regrets about coming here (even though I had to extend another school year). I strongly recommend to other international students to try it and not just sit behind with the only reason being that they are a foreigner.