Don't Believe Everything You Hear
If you’ve thought about studying at Akita International University, there are probably a few things you’ve heard that might sound discouraging, such as: outside of Japanese language classes, it’s an English-only school, so you’ll never get to practice your Japanese. It’s a small campus in the country-side with limited bus access, so you’ll probably be trapped on campus all the time (especially during the winter). Because the city is far away, you won’t get to participate in many activities. AIU is modeled after the American university system, so it won’t feel like a real Japanese university. The list goes on.
These were all things I had heard beforehand, so naturally I was unsure of whether or not to be enthusiastic about studying here. It turns out, these statements don’t have to be true. They could be true – but they don’t have to be. There are tons of possibilities here at AIU; you just have to seek them out and go for it.
How to Get Away from Campus
Since coming here, I’ve gone on field trips to the beautiful countryside of Akita, participated in a farming experience on a class field trip, worked at an overnight English camp in the woods, helped Japanese high schoolers with their English through AIU’s English Village program, visited elementary schools and did a homestay in the small town of Happocho in the north, all through AIU’s RCOS program.
Through some connections I made at AIU, I was even approached to write a review of a musical playing in Akita city, as well as to serve as a judge at a film festival at Senboku near Lake Tazawako.
Using and Developing Japanese Language Ability
Even though a lot of these activities involves teaching English, the main language I have used every time is – you guessed it – Japanese.
I’ve learned a lot of Japanese from my classes here, but I’ve learned an impressive amount of conversational spoken Japanese through joining programs where I can reach out to those in the community around us and speak directly to Akita locals.
The locals may be hesitant to speak to foreigners at first, but once they’ve seen that you have a genuine interest in them and that you also have things to share, you’ll find them to be some of the warmest people you’ve ever met. I’ve interacted with preschoolers, teenagers, and even older obaachan (grandmothers), and every time we’d finish the day with a big smile on our faces, new knowledge in our minds, and good memories in our hearts.
Adventure is There for the Finding
Finding adventure at AIU may not seem as obvious as for students studying abroad in Tokyo or Osaka, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The possibilities are always there – you just have to go out, find them, and be willing to try something new.