Monday, October 3, 2016

Then and Now - Japanese exchange programs

Most of the posts in this blog are musings about Japanese music, a majority of which are (way too long) posts I did of shows I went to while on an exchange program at Okayama University in Spring and Summer of 2011. There isn't much going on in Guam but I've gone to Japan enough times to generate a little bit of content in between...but now that I'm back in Japan as part of another exchange program I - hope - I can post a little bit more and become more useful. It's a little out of the ordinary but I thought I could take the time to differentiate between the program I'm on now and the one I did five years ago. Now that school has officially started I always catch myself thinking back to the first program I did and how it compares and contrasts with this one.

Both are very different indeed. Five years ago I was part of a half a year course in Japanese language and culture. Besides a Japanese class I took just about everyday, all of the classes were taught in English on various topics in Japanese culture: political science, literature, history, etc. It was all streamlined and coordinated by the office and easy to do. This time, I'm a research student in a graduate program, and I'm not even too sure what I'm supposed to be doing! The Japanese course I've been enrolled in is a mix of students from various disciplines, but definitely none from my group of exchange students or my neighbors at the dormitory. Although my Japanese course is set, my other classes this time revolve around obtaining my degree and have been recommended to me by my advisor. Thankfully, these are few and far between and most are in Japanese but contain a reading list consisting of many academic books in English. It's still not a nice, ready-made little program, but at least this time the content is catered to be more specifically geared to my interests/academic research. It's a little more independent, but given that it's been five years and I'm a graduate student already, it's a given that I should be able to figure all this out on my own - it isn't hard, really.

Besides the programs themselves, there's also the fact that this time I've arrived on my own without any cohorts from my school or in my department. A few other students are enrolled in my program and are starting this semester, of course, but they not only live in a completely different area than my dormitory but seem to be under a different jurisdiction too. I go with a completely different group of students to register and such, and I don't know any of them very well. The last time it was much easier having two people come along from my university, one of which was already a long time friend, giving me someone to talk to and experience all the confusing things together. In addition, there were only a few other schools participating and it was easier to make friends with everyone even if I arrived in the middle of things. Otherwise, it's mostly me doing my own thing this time.

I haven't been to many foreign student parties or excursions and it's not exactly because there are a shortage of them but moreso because I'm just not interested. There are plenty being announced and even if I can't keep up with them ALL, it just isn't a priority of mine to go to this festival or this museum with the other people in the program. Maybe I'm just REALLY antisocial, have my own priorities, lost interest altogether in that kind of thing...or maybe I'm just too old. It's also less attractive if I have to go alone. Last time, having friends with you makes going to these things less of a hassle.

Finally, I realized that it's been a grand FIVE whole years since my last program and I've gone from an undergraduate to a graduate student, but mostly I've grown tremendously as a person. There is way too much that's occured in these past five years for my to possibly put down here, but through all of it I've taken on a completely different outlook on life. I might not be as enthusiastic about things as before but I feel like at the same time I'm trying my best to put myself out there and not worry too much about what people think - let's face it, I'm probably a lot older than everyone else in the classroom. I was a lot more lively back then and even if I am now, I guess I have a more pessimistic view of human relationships. I don't trust people as much as I did before and I suppose that's a little bit sad to think about. By no means do I expect anything out of anybody I meet. It feels like I just don't even care to meet people because it would amount to nothing like it usually does. Still, it's funny how in terms of what I'm doing in my free time, little has changeed. I'm still going here and there trying to explore, getting lost on my bike in every corner of downtown, and buying a ton of books, manga, and CDs that I probably won't ever use. Arcades are still a must every once in awhile and there isn't one in the city that I have yet to go to (at least that's how it feels at this point). I've tried just about every kind of ice cream at every convenience store. Mos Burger and ramen is about half my food pyramid. And I just discovered how exciting ordering things online is when you get them the next day - as opposed to waiting weeks or even a month on Guam. I haven't been going to concerts as much, in fact, none so far, but I'm not as in tune with Japanese music as I was before and haven't an idea about the music scene in Nagoya itself. I'm sure when I'm a little more well off financially I can start diving into live houses a bit more.

So in a nutshell that's what life's been like so far here in Nagoya. As time passes everything will, hopefully, become a lot more clear to me and allow me to write off all this unease and confusion as being simply part of the process of starting everything in a new place. I expect to post less of stuff like this in the future and definitely more of the usual pop culture kinda stuff. Thanks for reading.

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