Back to SummaryScott Parks - Student Advisor Profile
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The fashion, the anime, the traditions, the games, the technology, the art, and the language. Young people are attracted to Japan for all kinds of reasons, and I am no exception. I’ve known since high school that I wanted to study abroad in Japan, and I’ve been making the necessary preparations to do so since I came to Stanford. I took the classes, studied the language and culture, took purikura (sticker pictures) in San Francisco’s Japan Town, and I even used a Japanese-style high-tech toilet that squirts your backside when you press the right button. I thought I was ready.
Although all of my preparations certainly did pay off by helping me acclimate to the new environment more easily, I underestimated the depth of what I didn’t know. Luckily enough, I soon began to recognize initially challenging cultural differences as opportunities to explore the richness of Kyoto and Japan. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to the Japanese toilets, but I did gain an understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture and daily life.
Out of all of the values I can take away from my Kyoto experience, one of the most satisfying is the improvement in my language skills. KCJS has an incredible language program that pushes students to make leaps and bounds of progress. One of the great things about study abroad is that learning doesn’t stop once you leave the classroom. Interactions with Japanese people on the grounds of Doshisha University, the streets of Kyoto, and in my host family’s home were all perfect complements to the instruction I was receiving in Japanese class. You would be amazed at how much Japanese you can learn from an adorable four-year-old Japanese girl like my host sister; as you can probably guess, her Japanese was rather different than what we see in text books. Other academic highlights include linguistically analyzing Studio Ghibli films in my Japanese pragmatics class and taking fieldtrips to Osaka and around Kyoto to visit historically significant locations that I studied in my Japanese minorities class.
As much as everyone loves learning, I would also like to express how much FUN I had in Kyoto. Kyoto is a beautiful and amazing city filled with both tradition and a lively youth culture. Although there is plenty to explore in and around the city on one’s own, I find that Kyoto is best experienced in the company of others. To my surprise and delight, there are student groups at Doshisha University and the neighboring Kyoto University whose purposes are to welcome foreign students to their respective schools and to Kyoto. These groups constantly invite KCJS students to events like sightseeing, sushi parties, holiday parties, video games parties, etc. These events are held for all foreign students, so in addition to facilitating making Japanese friends, fellow KCJS students and I were also able to meet and befriend people from Korea, China, Australia, the Netherlands, France, and other countries, expanding our horizons to a global scale. Speaking of other KCJS students, one of the advantages of the KCJS program is that students from universities located all over the United States attend the program, which means that I was able to burst the Stanford bubble and make friends with people who go to school all over the country.
Another aspect of KCJS that gives students an opportunity to explore the resources of Kyoto is the Community Involvement Project (CIP). Each student pursues some sort of project (e.g. music lessons, sports teams, student groups, local clubs, etc.) as a way to improve Japanese language skills through the real world situations that students experience by getting involved in the community. My CIP involved going to weekly meetings of the Kyoto Esperanto Association. (Esperanto is an easy-to-learn artificially constructed international auxiliary language.) I involved myself in the Kyoto Esperanto community, traveled with the club, and even ended up giving a speech in Japanese in front of 25 or so people about my experiences with Japan and Esperanto as an American.
I was also pleased to find that even though Kyoto is full of interesting things to do and people to meet, Japan’s superb public transportation makes traveling to neighboring cities quick, efficient, and cheap. The popular cities of Nara and Osaka can both be reached from Kyoto by train in under an hour. One day I planned an outing to the neighboring city Takarazuka (about one hour away from Kyoto by train) to see a musical at the nationally famous Takarazuka theater. Think half Broadway and half Las Vegas, except that all of the cast members are female, including those who play male roles—just another wonderful Japanese peculiarity. Nine of us, including KCJS students and Japanese students, went to go see this musical revue filled with feathers, glitter, and booming Japanese singing voices.
It’s definitely a cliché, but studying abroad was one of the best decisions I made at Stanford. Japan is an amazing country to visit, and the time I spent there furthered my love for the Japanese language and culture as well as internationalism and cultural exchange in general. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand your perspective and get a taste for life in another part of the world. I love Japan, but I seriously recommend studying abroad (somewhere) to all students at Stanford!!!