Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Struggles of the Gaijin Bubble

Right before I came to Kansai Gaidai, I decided look up the college on numerous forums. I wanted to see what previous students experienced and to see if they had any advice. Every single person mentioned the "gaijin bubble". Gaijin means foreigner in Japanese. And from the few weeks I've been here, the gaijin bubble is very real.

Kansai Gaidai is a language school, specializing in English. This means that just about all 15,000 Japanese students know some level of English. For a Kansai Gaidai student to study abroad, they must enroll in an Asian Studies class. This is to make sure they know English well enough to study abroad. All students that interact with international students must also be able to speak English well. This means that the student helpers, speaking partners, home visit families, and field trip guides know enough English to communicate with you. In fact, most students would like to speak English to you in order to improve their English.

In terms of classes, all courses in the Asian Studies Program are conducted in English, with the exception of your Japanese course. This means every international student must be profienct in English in order to even take classes here. All the professors teach in English. Even the Japanese natives in the Hirakata area know some basic Japanese due to the influx forgiens in the area.

Speaking about foreigners, Kansai Gaidai boasts a large international community. The Asian Studies Program brings on average 700 international students annually. This semester has 100 less international than last semester, so there's about 300 international students present. A majority of us live in different Seminar Houses, aka international dorms. I am currently in Seminar House 4, the largest dorm with about 100 students. With about 80% of internationals being American, there is a lot of reminders of home.

Between going to school with international students, having class in English, and living with internationals in English, you can very easily be in Japan for five months and not truly experience Japan.

That's my problem right now.

Everyday I hang out with internationals, I go to class with internationals, and I speak English. It's hard to make Japanese friends, especially since the Japanese students are on their spring break which is like the American summer break. It's only the internationals on campus with a few Japanese students here and there. In other words, a majority of the people you will see and end up making friends with will be internationals.

I am in the Gaijin Bubble.

So I have to find my way out of this. Like I said, it's hard. Japanese students aren't here. My speaking partner and home visit family are all on vacation, work, or doing club activities until the beginning of their school year. In a way, the internationals are the only people to hang out with.

But I'm going to get out of this.

I have a hard time with Japanese, so I'm going to make a cheat book for me that I can keep in my purse filled with phrases and words I'll need. My speaking partner is helping me via email.