My last 6 months in Nagoya squeezed into a few hundred words
While everyone was beginning their semesters abroad I was just finishing my first and starting a two-month long spring vacation, which means two things: One, that I as soon as classes ended I dropped everything from last semester and embarked on all the adventures I hadn't had time for until now, and two, that because of that I am very late writing my introduction for this class.
I'll have to be brief in summing up where I am and why, and what I've been up to these last few months before I set off for the next round of hostels, cheap hotels, and the occasional traditional inn, none of which (despite the inns), being for the too-broke-to-afford-daily-luxuries, a.k.a students, offer internet service (and although internet cafes are abundant throughout the country, they aren't something I could ever walk into alone as a foreigner, much less as a female, for reasons I'll have to explain in another post).
My name is Naomi Pallas, and I'm a sophomore in Gallatin struggling to narrow down my concentrating in, though at the moment it will be along the lines of journalism and Japanese studies. I came to Nagoya University in Japan where NYU has an exchange-based affiliation (though no actual campus anywhere in the country) in September for a yearlong exchange of which the halfway point has just slid past.
In the last half year I have learned more about Japan and about myself than I ever could have in the same amount of time at home, even though I'm not exactly gaining much school-wise--though my classes last semester were interesting, about Japanese language, culture, politics etc., they were mostly taught in English by people who's English language abilities were questionable to say the least.
Of course, no one studies abroad to get the same information they could at home. Thanks to the simplicity of my schoolwork I have had more time to explore Nagoya, Japan's fourth largest city, which, even though it's known for its industrial dullness, has a lot to offer for the lover of narrow side streets and obscure shops and cafes, and of nature with its vicinity to the rest of Aichi and Gifu prefectures which are filled with national parks, old castle towns and hike-able mountains.
I should warn that I would likely have more exciting things to say in my blogs if this were my first lengthy stay in the country. I came here as an exchange student for a semester as a senior in high school, stayed with a host family, attended Japanese high school. I knew no Japanese and was in a prefecture on an island I had never heard of. I was younger, and I was completely naive and open to all of Japan's customs, traditions, peculiarities and distinctions. The feeling of beginning to understand and know a place entirely unfamiliar to you or anyone you know, and with that, understanding and knowing that there will be something unexpected everyday, has to be one of the greatest in the world. Yet after leaving with that feeling, with the idea of "my Japan," I was shocked to find that freshness lost when I returned this year. Though I'm not fluent, I now understand most of what I'm confronted with every day and, "you're Japanese is very good!" has become more of a condescendence than a compliment. When I see my exchange student friends' faces when they first walk into a hot spring or castle I feel a little jealous knowing their astonishment but lacking the full force of the feeling myself. And living on my own without the aid of an exchange program, I'm seeing darker sides of the society I never encountered in high school.
But I think this is the perfect time to start documenting my experiences here. Finals and a brief mid-school year "what am I doing with my life" crisis are over and I am in the middle of exploring the country, visiting old friends and meeting new ones, and being reminded every day by its ancient beauty and stark differences to all things familiar in the United States of why I fell in love with Japan a few years ago.
Next on my list is a 10-day trip with my school's hiking club (with whom I've had one to many near-death experiences) to Yakushima, a remote island off the coast of southern Japan. I definitely won't have internet access there so until then I will try to upload a few posts at a time and will finish catching up when I get back, if I survive. Sayonara for now!