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By Nicholas Bingham. January 8, 2014 - 10:02 pm
Grad date: Spring 2014
Study abroad location: Hakodate, Japan
I chose to study abroad in Hakodate because I really wanted to become proficient in the Japanese language. Had I studied abroad in somewhere like Tokyo where there are many people who can speak English, my learning of the language would have been hindered.
In Hakodate, there are very few English speakers. This forced me to learn to speak and understand Japanese at a rapid rate in order to go about my daily life.
Sapporo is the nearest big city and is a about a six-hour bus ride away from Hakodate. You can do a lot in Sapporo, especially in February when the famous Snow Festival takes place.
If you know how to work your way around Japanese websites, you can get plane tickets from Sapporo to Osaka for just $70. All the more reason to learn your Japanese!
Some people even try to secretly take pictures of you.
One culture point that I don’t think you’d read about in a book is human interaction in Japan. Japanese people in general are really shy. It’s rather rare to find a Japanese student who will walk up and start talking to you.
Therefore, you need to be the bold one and initiate the conversation if you want to make friends. However, being too bold may scare your potential friends away. You’ll need to learn to find a balance of boldness and self-control.
However, don’t be surprised if people stare at you; especially if you do not look Japanese. Foreigners are rare in this part of Japan, and I’ve had more than my fair share of stares. Some people even try to secretly take pictures of you.
I’ve even been timidly approached at festivals by people I don’t know asking if they can get a picture with me. Hakodate is a really interesting place! You’ll just need to see it for yourself.