Like to make Asian Friends? Come to Japan!
Meeting more people and getting to experience more cultural things is one of the main purposes of my exchange at Rikkyo University. In this article, I will talk about the various friends I made this semester, the cultural exchanges I experienced, and some interesting things that happened.
Because most exchange students don't know Japanese, Japanese students are often difficult to interact with. Most Japanese (and even Asian) students give people an impression that they are shy and introverted, but if you are willing to interact with them, they are very polite and friendly, and willing to communicate with you. In this semester, I was very lucky to make some Japanese friends, Tomoki and Shogo. They were my classmates who majored in German and had been to Germany to study abroad for one semester. We would chat all afternoon at Starbucks, and Tomoki explained in detail what college life is like in Japan, where most students have part-time jobs, which is not common in China. At first, Tomoki and Shogo weren't very fluent in English. As an Asian student, I could understand them because we didn't grow up with a lot of English. Thus, I slowed down my speed and listened to them more. Gradually, the language barrier disappeared and the topics became easier. We exchanged our “Line” (Japanese messaging app) accounts later and arranged to sit together next week.
We went to “井の头恩赐公园” (Inokashira Onshi Park) in November, where the red maple leaves looked like fire burning, and the boats in the lake were very beautiful. There were lots of people: an old man painting by the side of the road, and children playing on swings. There were even stores that sold all kinds of small gifts. There’s also a famous cultural museum in the park. (But the ticket is 2000 yen: $20 USD, so we didn’t go). The lonely city of Tokyo was also warmed up because of a park like this. There’s many parks in Tokyo, and I visited most of them, including Meiji Shrine, Korakuen Koen, and some other small parks.
After that, we went to karaoke. They ordered many Japanese songs, while I sang Chinese songs, and then we sang "Let it go" from “Frozen” and "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift. Then, we drank at"Gong Cha" together, a Taiwanese pearl milk tea shop. I am very surprised that I could enjoy Taiwan's pearl milk tea in Japan. And even more to my surprise, both Tomoki and Shogo thought the brand came from Japan.
As a fan of Japanese anime, Akihabara is certainly a place to not miss. The day before we left Japan, we had a farewell party and visited the world-famous Akihabara. There are many elements of ACG (Anime, Comic, Game) there, and the building was covered with pictures of ACG elements, which gave it a very busy feeling. We went to the Sega Building to play the game, "Drum Master", bought light novels and comics at the Soft Map store, and then went to eat very expensive beef BBQ.
My friends and I were very reluctant to leave each other. In the end, I told them about the campus culture at OSU and invited them to visit Columbus one day. They also said they would definitely come to the United States and China if they had the chance. I'm sure we'll see each other again.
In addition to my Japanese friends, I made friends from Denmark, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Indonesia, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, China, South Korea, and the United States. Some of them were my friends from school activities, some of them are my roommates, and most of them were my classmates. They are all very outgoing, communicative, helpful and friendly.
When communicating with them, I found that their English was very fluent, and I often found that my listening could not keep up with their speaking speed. Even though I was a junior at OSU, it was still very difficult for me, as a non-native English speaker, to communicate with them without obstacles. But be patient, be polite, and show that you want to talk, and you'll be welcomed wherever you go.
As a matter of fact, as an overseas student, I am very impressed that most English-speaking Europeans and American students are very interested in Asian culture, but Asian students often give people the impression that it is difficult to interact with them. I think that’s because they are not confident enough with their English. My English is somewhere in between. I spent two years in the United States, and there are similarities between Chinese culture and Japanese culture, so that's why it's so rare for me to make friends both in Japan and other countries at the same time. The cultural differences looks scary, but it's not. In fact, when my Japanese friends heard about the custom of “OH-IO”, they were also happy to say "TO- KYO". Take the initiative, and you'll find it a pleasure and a source of pride to explain your culture to others.
I think making so many friends was the biggest benefit I gained from the exchange program at Rikkyo University. This experience is far more important than what I have learned in class.
If you are a Buckeye who loves sharing and living life, then you should go on Student Exchange!