Studying in Japan/Japanese
国際基督教大学（ICU)留学生 Studying in Japan: MyStory 日本で学ぶ・日本を学ぶ vol.9
Name: Naomi Kaneko（金子 奈緒美）
“I intend to major in International Relations and hopefully work in that field in the future.”
Currently studying under a Liberal Arts Programme at International Christian University (ICU), Tokyo.
- CHIJ (Toa Payoh) Primary School
- CHIJ (Toa Payoh) Secondary School
- Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Q. You have a Japanese heritage and was raised in Singapore. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you chose to study in Japan?
My mother is Singaporean and my father is Japanese, but I was born in Singapore and never really lived in Japan aside from occasional visits during the school holidays. My family hardly ever used Japanese at home and I would communicate with my parents only in English. As a child, I had the opportunity to learn some basic Japanese but stopped after a while so that I could focus more on my Chinese. I eventually had a chance to take a Japanese class during my second year at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and continued learning Japanese at a private language school after graduation. During this period, I was also deciding where I should attend university and the idea of studying in Japan intrigued me. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to improve my Japanese and to also get to know the country inside out.
I came to Japan a few months before starting university and enrolled in a Japanese language school to get a head start. I was initially very self-conscious about the way I spoke Japanese and this affected my speaking. My confidence grew eventually when I stopped pressurizing myself to form “textbook” sentences and started to learn through making mistakes in everyday conversations with my local friends. Through finally picking up the Japanese language, I feel re-connected back to my roots, especially when I was finally able to converse with my Japanese grandmother.
Q. What made you decide to study at ICU?
The Liberal Arts system at ICU allows students to gain a broad variety of knowledge through studying diverse topics during the first two years. A major field of study is only decided at the end of the second year. This was one of ICU’s features that led to my decision of choosing to apply to ICU as I was attracted to the idea of exploring different classes in both humanities and sciences.
I also benefited from the compulsory Japanese Language Programs (JLP) at ICU which I took concurrently with my other classes. The program was very intensive andchallenging. It not only equipped us with conversational skills but also focused on academic report writing.
Q. What is your life like there?
Besides school work, I took up a part-time job as an English teacher at a language school. I enjoy it as it enables me to meet other university students and improve my Japanese, since I have to do a lot of translation. I also joined a hip hop dance group outside of school. Although there was nothing new about dancing hip hop which I always loved to do, it was certainly a new experience learning dance choreography in Japanese. Besides being able to dance again, I also have the opportunity to get to know more people, both Japanese and non-Japanese, who share a passion for dance. It is so heartwarming to see how we have grown and bonded as a team, regardless of our difference in backgrounds. I am so thankful to have found this second family here during my time in Japan.
Q. What is your impression of Japanese university students?
At first I was amazed at how the Japanese university students manage their time so efficiently such that they have sufficient time for both workand play. I know of many students who are not only just doing well in school but are also actively engaged in various clubs, holding more than one part-time job and have other commitments outside of school. I think this culture of maintaining a well-balanced lifestyle encourages students to pursue their passions and gain working experience while fulfilling their responsibilities as students.
Q. Do you have a message you’d like to share with students who are considering studying at a university in Japan?
I would definitely encourage students who are either studying Japanese in Singapore or considering studying in a university in Japan to come and experience living in Japan. There are so many Japanese language schools that offer intensive courses for foreigners who are either in Japan just for a period of time or preparing to enter the local universities.
Living in Japan will be an eye-opening experience that teaches one to adapt in and appreciate a different culture. Studying in a university in Japan would also provide a valuable opportunity to meet not only local Japanese students but also international students from other countries. In addition, not forgetting that Japan is a beautiful country with its rich historical culture and picturesque sceneries, it is definitely an experience worth encountering.