Q1. What is your name? What university do you study at? What is your current major or focus of study?
My name is Ricardo Bilton. At the moment, I am studying at Temple University Japan, but my home school is Amherst College, where I am majoring in English.
Q2. What prompted your decision to come to Japan and study?
Honestly, I can't recall. My only recollection of the thought processes leading to my decision to come to Japan was looking at a list of possible countries to study in and realizing that Japan was the only one I was even remotely interested in. That and I had been taking Japanese for a semester.
Q3. Please describe some of the difficulties you first had in Japan:
There were obviously some issues of reconciling how different Japan was compared to the United States, but, to be perfectly honest, I had few problems when I came here. Sure, the exchange rate wasn't very kind to me, and, yeah, the train system is almost labyrinthine before I got used to it -- but those things were more so exciting challenges than anything.
Q4. Do you have any useful places you visit often?
Besides my saint of a dorm manger, I often looked though Metropolis magazine for information. One thing I wish I had access to was a well-organized Web site that posted live house schedules, but it was nearly impossible to find that sort of stuff.
Q5. During your stay in Japan, please describe a typical day:
Trudge out of bed, get dressed, make more than a few unexpected new friends (since my hour commute puts me in almost-uncomfortable close proximity with fellow commuters), go to class, complain about class, try some new likely mayonnaise-soaked food product at a convenience store, finish class, go home, sort-of do homework, begrudgingly go to bed, more often than not at 4 a.m.
Q6. What kind of information would you pass along to people who want to study in Japan in the future?
To be honest, I didn't really come to Japan to study, at least not in the head-buried-in-books kind of way. I'm positive I've learned 4.2 billion times as much outside of class as I have inside of it. So the best advice I can give to people who want to study in Japan is to do as little studying as possible. It's nearly impossible to learn how to speak a language by reading books, so, really, if you want to get the most out of studying here, become as linguistically fearless as possible. Seriously — burn your textbooks.
Q7. What's been the memorable thing you've encountered during your stay in Japan?
The hardest question here by far.
There were a number of occasions where friends and I went to parks for hanami and made friends with nearby drunken Japanese people. I learned a lot through these kinds of interactions, temporary (if quasi) absorptions into the groups of strangers. The thing about Japan is that being a foreigner makes you something of a spectacle, even if you do happen to be keeping to yourself. So it was always fun to embrace my novelty and, in my best Japanese, try my very hardest to have some semblance of a conversation, as loud and difficult as it often was.