From Spain to Japan to study the Japanese language

Expat interviews
  • Spanish student
Published on 2022-09-16 at 10:00
Raquel is getting ready for her studies abroad in Japan, and her first goal is to learn the language and explore Japanese culture in depth. In this interview, she tells us about her upcoming adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Tell us how you became fascinated with Japanese culture. Which aspects of this culture interest you more?

They have a completely different culture from what we are used to in Spain and Europe. In some areas, like technology and discipline, they are more developed than us, while they lag behind in other areas like tackling sexism and mental health. I'm really looking forward to learning about Japanese people's lifestyle and way of working. Their cuisine is also very different from ours, and I want to learn their cooking methods and traditional dishes. On top of that, traditional Japanese architecture is so beautiful, it's so different from European architecture, and it's true to the country's cultural roots.

What's the purpose of your trip to Japan?

My main goal is to learn the Japanese language, at the very least, up to an intermediate level. I'm going to the city of Osaka to study in an academy where classes are conducted in Japanese. My second goal is to assimilate everything good that the country has to offer – knowledge, customs, ways of thinking that we had never considered before –, visit as many important sites as possible and understand how people live and why they live this way. When I return to Spain, I hope to be rich in the knowledge I would have never acquired if I hadn't left the country. I expect the language to open many doors for me, and this experience to create a new, better “me.”

Are you planning to remain there after your studies to live and work?

I hope to stay there for at least six months, and then, depending on the situation, I could extend this stay to a year in which I would both work and study. I don't think I'll stay for more than a year because I'm still at university and have to return home for my internships.

How has your search for accommodation been? Complicated?

I have a reliable friend who's already lived this adventure I'm about to set on, and given that I've never even visited the country and that my Japanese level is quite low, I looked for housing through the same agency as that friend. That agency takes care of your visa application, the search for a school that fits your needs, and the search for accommodation. It's been a month since I haven't heard back from the embassy concerning my visa's approval, but everything is likely to be OK, given that the school itself has accepted all of my documentation. I'm hoping to stay in a student dorm found to be able to interact with students from other countries.

Have you learned some Japanese? What has been your strategy?

Yes, and I recommend anyone to learn a bit of the language before visiting the country. During the pandemic, I had a lot of free time, so I started learning Japanese. Once I had reached a certain level, self-study started becoming difficult; there were many grammatical rules that I couldn't wrap my head around. I enrolled in two courses at the UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya/Open University of Catalonia), which offered language training online, and I was able to strengthen my skills enough to get by during my first few days in Japan.

Your aims are to discover Japanese culture: food, films, literature, trends, etc. What would you recommend to those who feel the allure of an adventure in Japan?

I always make it very clear that if you're going to live abroad, under whichever circumstances, you have to be mentally prepared that the first few weeks or months will be very difficult. The feeling of loneliness will feel heavy because you won't know anyone yet, and, what's more, it's a culture and language that's foreign to you. Talking specifically about Japan, we must remain aware that people can be much more distant and reserved than us. It's not like in Seville, where everyone is open, extroverted, and tightly knit.

I recommend people to try to learn Japanese before moving there, learn at least the basic phrases to greet people, introduce yourself and communicate about basic necessities like food and drink. Japanese has two syllabaries that are quite easy to learn, they are Hiragana and Katakana, and they can save you on more than one occasion, when they help you get the gist of what's written in public places.

Plugs and sockets in Japan are very different from the ones used in Europe, they're similar to the ones used in the United Kingdom. You can buy them from AliExpress, because when you reach your phone battery will probably be dead. What's more, you'll be exhausted from traveling. If you've already packed an adaptor, you'll save yourself the hassle of having to look for one in some airport store.

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