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Japanese exchange students polish English, experience Western culture at Austin Peay

Japan students

(Posted on Monday, May 2, 2022)

During the time of worldwide pandemic, many of us have been unable to travel overseas, let alone within the country.

Despite the difficult times, many exchange students came to Austin Peay State University from various places around the world, and from those countries, several of the students are from Japan.

Most of the Japanese exchange students chose to come to the United States to better their English language skills, which is considered an important skill to have in most Asian countries.

This was also the case for Kai Horiuchi a student from the Komatsu University majoring in intercultural communication.

“I wanted to improve my English because it will help me in my career,” Kai said.

On the other hand, some students added that they came because they wanted to experience the Western culture in the United States that they admired from watching movies and television.

Akira Koyashiki is a student from Hiroshima University majoring in British literature. She said that she was inspired to come to the United States by the free-spirited nature of the western people compared to her home country.

“I liked American culture since I was young, and I think I am shy,” she said. “So, I came to change myself.”

‘More active and learned new things’

Whatever they were hoping to get from the exchange opportunity, they experienced a new environment far different from what they are used to.

Mai Harada is a student from Nagoya University of Foreign Studies majoring in global governance and collaboration. She was most shocked by the different atmosphere in the classrooms.

“Students here have their own opinion, and in class, they often share their own thoughts, but in Japan, most Japanese students do not share their opinion and just listen and write notes for the lecture,” she said.

Kasane Iikura, a student from Rikkyo University majoring in intercultural communication, agreed.

“In Japan, most students are really passive,” she said. “They just listen to what the teacher says. So I was really surprised and shocked by the difference that the attitude also changed me. I became more active and learned new things.”

While the differences bring learning opportunities, it is also why most exchange students struggle. Challenges include being in a foreign country on the other side of the planet, having to be separated from their families and friends and the stress of learning a different language.

For Ayaka Matsui, also a student from Rikkyo University studying intercultural communication, overcoming the language barrier has been a big challenge.

“Learning English is very difficult for me,” she said. “Sometimes I feel depressed about my English skills compared to other exchange students.”

Learning in a ‘melting pot’ country

Nevertheless, each one of the exchange students has gained a lot from their experience of coming to Austin Peay. 

For Kasane, coming to the “melting pot” country has given her a deeper understanding of other cultures by being able to interact with a diverse group of people, which she would have not been able to experience from her school in Japan.

“Compared with my university back in Japan, there are a lot of people who have different backgrounds at APSU,” she said. “People of different races and ethnicities. There are also nontraditional students, and that was really interesting for me.”

Akira said that she enjoyed going to university events where she was able to make new friends and enjoy the American campus life.

“There are events at APSU like football games, and all the students go and watch. That never happens in Japanese universities, at least I know that it doesn’t in my university,” Akira said. “So, it’s quite fun to join the university events where we can meet a lot of new people and connect with them.”

Through the exchange program at APSU, Ayaka made amazing friends, which she cherishes.

“To be honest, I don’t have a lot of special memories, yet, other than my friends,” she said. “My friends I met here at APSU are my precious experience.”

During their limited time here at APSU, the Japanese exchange students were given opportunities to learn and explore the different cultures while making unforgettable memories and, hopefully, it will make a great impact on their lives and their careers in the future.

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