One of my goals as a double major in Linguistics and Japanese was to study abroad before I graduate. Thanks to the IAAD Scholarship, I was able to participate in the Japanese Contemporary Art Animation and Beyond program this past summer.
This opportunity is one of the best things I’ve done at Binghamton University. I’ve always studied Japanese as an interest but visiting the country made everything I’ve been learning more real. Learning a different language and about a different culture will always seem foreign until you experience it yourself. Going abroad gives you a bigger perspective of the world because you’re immersed in a different culture than yours. You step out of your shoes and into another’s; seeing what they see, eating what they eat, you momentarily share a part of someone else’s life.
You learn about the general differences in a classroom setting. Subways in Tokyo are known to be extremely crowded during rush hours, they have a different subway system than America, sidewalks commonly have yellow lines called “Tactile Ground Surface Indicators”, etc. Studying abroad closes that learning and reality gap, allowing you to notice smaller, more personal differences. The subway arrives right on the dot and stops at the same precise location, there are hardly any public trash cans, train fares do not have a set price but depend on the length of the route, bikes with children seats are common, recycling is split into combustible, in-combustibles, cans only, and P.E.T. Bottles only, and many other lifestyle, food and even classroom differences.
This program is a great mixture of education and exploring. We spent the mornings learning about Japanese contemporary art at the Edoka campus of Nihon University. We learned how to examine contemporary art, had guest lecturers, visited Japanese traditional theater dance classes and art classes to mingle with Japanese students. In the afternoons, we went to the Mori Art Museum, Ginza Six, Sumida Hokusai Museum, and other places to apply what we learned that morning. We also had free time after class and on weekends to venture out on our own and explore the city. I made friends I never would have met had I not studied abroad, I ate delicious food I still crave for even months after I left Japan, and I learned about a subject I never would have taken at Binghamton.
I am extremely thankful to Professor Tomonari Nishikawa and Professor Rumiko Sode from Binghamton University and Professor Kenta Nomura, Professor Kunitoshi Okuno, Professor Keishi Aoki, Professor Ryuta Iida, and Professor Minosuke Nishikawa from Nihon University for an unforgettable experience. I had a great time learning about Japanese contemporary art animation, mainstream animation, puppet animation, 日本舞踊, art trends and techniques, and cultural influences.
I highly encourage BU students to study abroad, especially those interested in another language or culture. There is a study abroad opportunity out there for everyone – even students who study multiple majors, have financial worries, and no previous knowledge about other cultures. In fact, this program is perfect for those who want a taste of another culture with or without the language and cultural prerequisite. Studying abroad has increased my passion to learn more Japanese and to revisit Japan. If I were to do it again, I would choose to stay for a longer term.
Sharon Xu, a Japanese and Linguistics majors, studied on the Japanese Contemporary Art Animation and Beyond during summer 2017.