It has been 10 months since I came to New York from Japan to study English. Even though I was born in London, I ought to say it was the first time for me to go abroad as long as I remember because my family came back to Japan before I became one year old. To study abroad had been one of my dreams and I was excited to come to the United States. However, at the same time, I was feeling uneasy because I thought everything would be different from the things in Japan here.
Before I came to the United States, I was curious to know some cultural things. One of the examples is how Americans communicate each other. In Japan, we have much variety of words to express our respects depend on who to speak with – those who are older, younger, or the same age as ourselves. English also has some expressions like that though, but not as much as Japanese. We usually use polite words to show respect for strangers or the older people, and clerks use them for customers even if they are younger. What I found here is that the way Americans communicate was friendly. Japanese tend to talk to strangers in a business-like way that makes distance between them, but I feel closer to strangers here.
To tell the truth, I have experienced much fewer and smaller culture shocks than I had imagined, or, I might be too adaptable. Of course I experienced some, though. For example, I was surprised when I saw the person who opened a package of snack and started eating before he brought it to the register. It was more surprisingly for me that the clerk did not care about it at all. Most Japanese think it is illegal or should be punished. I don’t think it is welcomed in the US either, but clerks generally admit it without complaining.
As for studying, I believe the biggest difference is the way the teachers interact with their students. The common style of classes in Japan is that the students just listen to what the teacher is talking and teachers rarely ask students for their opinions. In my classes at the English language school in New York, we had less than 15 students in each class and we interacted and discussed a lot. At first, I was too shy to speak in class, but my classmates amazed me because they speak out their opinions and questions without hesitating. Their positive attitude towards studying had a big impact on me.
Since I graduated from the ESL much earlier than I had planned, I decided to go to a business school just for three months. I have classes three days a week and I come to office as an intern on the other two days in weekdays. The classes are like those of universities. We have much more assignments as well as presentations than I had in the former school or my university in Japan. The materials are difficult for me because I have been majoring in American literature in my university and I did not have any knowledge of marketing or finance at all. Learning these in English makes it much hardier to understand, but it is a great way to study English, especially new vocabularies. Moreover, my internship is great experience for me. Although I have loved to use the social media for years, I had never thought about it in a business term and I found this industry really interesting. I’m still not sure what kind of job I want to get in the future, but this experience will definitely help me to think about it.
Thanks to these great environments, I have been learning a lot more than I had expected. I appreciate all the opportunities that made me grow. Sometimes I felt like going back to my country when I had difficulties to do something, but when I look back on it now, I can feel confidence because I did overcome the hardships.