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Greg WhitePasadena, California, USA
I'm studying in the SILAC program concentrating on conversation skills.
What were you doing before you came to Yamasa?
I'm a college professor in business marketing. I decided to take a year off from my teaching and go travelling. I started by learning Spanish in Guatemala and then I headed over to France to study French in Hyeres and then Paris. Then I decided to learn Japanese.
Did you start as a beginner?
I started as an absolute beginner. I found my first lesson to be very different. It was a totally foreign experience. We started with A, I, U, E, O... It was also exciting because it was so different especially compared to learning Spanish and French. Not using the English alphabet for the first time in my life...
Why Japanese? What led to you deciding to study Japanese?
Well I made a visit to Japan about 2 years ago. It was just as a tourist - I wanted to go travelling and the further away from California the better, so I thought, Japan. And I was kind of overwhelmed by the generosity of the people here and the richness of the culture. Very distinct culture. So from that point I was curious and wanted to know more about it. I met a lot of Japanese students who were studying Spanish and French and I made a lot of friends. When I visited Tokyo in Golden Week I was able to meet many of my friends. Also in Kobe. People I'd met in Hyeres and then Paris.
How long have you been at Yamasa?
Is this the first time you have lived in Japan?
Yes. My previous visit was only for 1 week.
What are you plans after graduation?
I'm going to return to teaching. I'm hoping that I will be able to use the experience of travel to enrich the lectures. It changes your outlook a bit - seeing the way different countries do things...
Where are you living at the moment?
I live in the Student Village - I decided to share a room. My room mate from Taiwan doesn't speak any English so we speak in Japanese. It was pretty difficult at first - a lot of gesturing really - but gradually we've been able to communicate in Japanese.
What is your accommodation like?
It has a college dorm feel. Its good for interaction and learning not only about Japan but also about other cultures. The village is a real melting pot of different cultures. There are so many nationalities under the same roof. Only downside at the moment is that a few more computers would be good - because I didn't bring a laptop.
How do you get to classes?
I ride a bicycle. I bought it second hand off another student for 5000 yen. Its a nice bike and I get around easily. It take about 5 minutes to get to my classes.
What is the biggest challenge or problem you've faced so far in Japan?
For me the biggest problem was been reading the signs. Getting used to the Hiragana, Katakana and kanji combinations.
Any surprises you would like to share?
Yeah this stay has been a real eye opener in many ways. The beer vending machines on street corners, the traffic police standing in the middle of intersections directing traffic even when the traffic signals were working perfectly, the school uniforms worn by the kids. A lot of things I didn't expect at all.
If a new student was entering your class today and asked for some advice, what would you say?
Study up on your hiragana and katakana. You need to come prepared to be serious - this is a challenging course. Make some friends especially Japanese friends so that you use the language. Put yourself in positions, especially into social positions etc where you have to speak Japanese.
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