First Impressions of Osaka

Written by Joshua Linkous, (Student Correspondent) University of Pennsylvania
CET Intensive Japanese Language & Culture Studies in Osaka, Summer 2015

The city of Nara.

The city of Nara.

For everyone, the beginning of the term seemed rather difficult. Right away, students were thrown into piles of homework as they attempted to adapt to the speed of the program. Jetlag is a very real thing, and the general fatigue from travel and preparations help little to ease the burden. For me, this was even worse, as I missed the first day of class due to a 40C (104F) fever. After two weeks, I just now finally feel like I’m coming back to full strength, but certainly the program does not stop for anybody. The reality is that it is very intensive and before you know it you’ll be wondering how you’ve managed to fit in four chapters in two weeks. However, most people seem to be adapting to the speed and finding strategies to proactively balance their schedule. Despite the intensity, the heavily context driven class sessions have caused me to retain a lot of the information from the class. However, while the classes have gone very well, the best part of the program is that you are studying Japanese in Japan. Utilizing daily interactions with my surroundings as learning opportunities has all the more reinforced what we have learned in class. It really is exciting to see those new kanji you spent all last night studying on an announcement or that new grammar you just learned in class earlier that day on an advertisement.

This last point about interacting with your environment is, I feel, very important for your health during the program. A few of my classmates speak to me about being in their rooms most of the week doing nothing but studying. I also shared this experience at first, dedicating all my time purely to my studies. However, not only is going out to enjoy yourself a mental break that is necessary for such an intense program, it also is a learning experience in itself. Sure, the book and the classes are very necessary, but having the chance to speak, read, and listen to Japanese outside of the classroom is just as important. When I first arrived, I shied away from interaction with the people of Japan, afraid of being unable to communicate with them. However, due to my frequent interaction with more than just the people involved in the program, I now feel zero hesitancy and am much more confident due to my positive communication experiences. This, I think, has translated over into my classroom performance, creating a positive feedback loop.

In general, Osaka is a fantastic city. I definitely feel it is more American-esque than other Japanese cities I have been to, but many of my classmates still see Osaka as a dramatic shift from what they are used to. Either way, Osaka offers such a wide variety of experiences, offering nearly anything you can think of. Also, the food has really lived up to its reputation. The American food is better than in America, and the European food a fantastic imitation. Despite Japan consistently being called “uniform” it certainly doesn’t feel like that at all thanks to the Japanese proclivity for sponging up all different kinds of influences. Thus, despite being “homogenous”, Osaka certainly feels very cosmopolitan. Thus, no matter your interest, I feel that there is definitely something for everyone here. For future CET students, I highly recommend searching these things out and using them to supplement your learning, both for the sake of your studies and your sanity. Finally, Osaka sits in a great location, being surrounded by ancient capitals like Kyoto and Nara and other fantastic places such as Kobe and Himeji. I also highly recommend taking a break from your studies to visit these places, as Osaka’s location and the area’s ease of travel are something you may never experience again.