Octave, a former exchange student from PIASS in Rwanda, wrote an essay to look back his 10 months in Japan. Because of COVID-19 pandemic, he had to take online classes and basically stay at home in spring semester, but he could find the way to enjoy himself under such a circumstance.
Here is his essay.
Essay on my Stay in Japan
I still remember the first time I went to Japan; last year towards the end of September. I was very excited to visit the country and even more excited to meet new and a diversity of people. My stay in Japan was from September to July. Which is long enough to learn and experience a few things, but at the same time it felt like a short stay.
Thanks to the efforts of Prof. Sasaki, Prof. Takeuchi and the African Studies Centre, crowd-funding members and TUFS, I was able to go to Japan as a TUFS exchange student from Rwanda. During my stay in japan I experienced a lot of good things and new perspectives of life which I learned from a variety of people of different cultures and age groups. I learned very important things which can help me improve my life, both in my daily experiences and with my academic studies.
Most of my friends were from different countries such as; France, Spain, UK, USA, Brazil, Nigeria and New Zealand to name a few. Thanks to TUFS I was able to make such friendships which I never thought I would be able to.
To my surprise, I met some very interesting Japanese people which I later befriended. I was surprised because before coming to Japan I was under the impression that Japanese people were quiet and a bit shy, but after a few days of spending a bit of time with my Japanese friends, the opposite was true. Each of them were very interesting, some ranging from very active and outgoing to a few others that are more reserved but just as much of good company.
When I was in TUFS I stayed in one of the dormitories which were reserved for international students. There I met lot of students from other countries and we would often explore the cities of Japan, shrines, temples and in a few occasions' festivals.
Food and cultural festivals
Someone once told me that the best way to fully experience a culture is through the food and language. Unfortunately my Japanese is not good enough to have long conversations with local people, so I tried the next best thing. Food! During the first few weeks in Japan before intensive classes started I was on a mission to get fat on Japanese food. Although I didn't get as far as I wanted to be, I thoroughly enjoyed the tastes of Japanese cuisine. What I came to realize is that sushi and sashimi were incredibly tasty but with a bit of soy sauce, my taste buds would be in a frenzy of delight. Sushi and sashimi are just a few of the food I enjoyed there. The most memorable of the foods I tried in Japan were okonomiyaki and tempura.
During my stay in Japan I went to a few festivals such as the chestnut festival. I had a lot of fun meeting new people and eating some very delicious chestnuts. It is only then where I saw parades which seemed very Japanese and different types of foods being sold. This made me appreciate how beautiful the Japanese culture is.
Trips to Okinawa and Hiroshima
During the times when I wasn't studying I had the pleasure of going to Okinawa. I was very happy to go because at that time winter was approaching and it was very cold in Tokyo, but prof. Sasaki planned a study trip to Okinawa and mentioned that it would be warmer there.
While in Okinawa we learned about the army bases in Okinawa and a few cases of how the Okinawa people are distressed by this. However, I was glad to hear that some locals would protest every week. As a student of Environmental Science I knew that the building of new army bases would negatively affect the natural environment, so something needed to be done to ensure that the environment and peace were fought for. In order to this, people would protest and slow down the building of these army bases and fortunately I had the chance to join the local people in protesting. I just hope our efforts and the efforts of the protesting locals are not in vain and that peace and understanding can be achieved.
Hiroshima was one of my favorite places in Japan; i enjoyed its presence and happy people.
Despite my enjoyment and wish to one day return there, it was a bit of a sad but fulfilling trip. What made it sad were the stories which I read about the effects of the A-bombs and how people suffered. It was quit depressing but very insightful. My hearts go out to those still affected directly or indirectly and to those who have overcome the pain of what had happened.
After visiting the museum two friends that we met in Hiroshima took us out to okonomiyaki and it was great! It was my first time trying okonomiyaki and I was told that Hiroshima has the best okonomiyaki in Japan.
In Tokyo I would sometimes travel to different parts of the city such as Shibuya, Shinjuku and Kichijoji, but my favorite place was Kichijoji because it was closer and had everything I needed form bigger cities such as Shibuya and Shinjuku. Seeing such tall buildings and a more urban life than I'm used to in Rwanda was a nice surprise and worth the experience.
I love the changing seasons but i think winter was the worst thing I've experienced in Japan! I'm naturally used to warmer weather so winter was very difficult for me to cope with. I did enjoy the beauty of snow but not so much the feel of it.
My school life
Life in TUFS was often busy in between classes and club activities. At PIASS (Protestant Institute of arts and Social Sciences) I study environmental sciences. With this course, I was a bit worried if I would find any courses related to my field of study but I was glad to found a few.
In the first semester I took about 11 courses which were all very interesting including Japanese 101. The courses which I found most interesting in the first semester were my Japanese courses, globalization and social change and world geography. The courses which I highlighted were very engaging. The manner with which the lecturers would conduct the class felt very professional and personal. The classes tried to get each and every student to give their own opinions and views on the courses. The classes never felt like lectures but more like conversations.
I had some trouble being early for classes in the first few weeks but once I got used to the campus, I learned how to manage my time for almost each class and although I'm no longer In Japan, I wish to experience the teaching methods of TUFS.
I was looking forward to the second semester, but unfortunately for everyone covid-19 left the world stuck and at home. The pandemic did not allow for classes to be open so the TUFS students (new and old) had to take classes online. Although it was inconvenient to meet the new students joining the second semester and physically join clubs for school activities, studying online was not so bad and I could enjoy classes and still learn a lot through video. I appreciate the lecturers for making the classes interesting even in that situation.
Towards the end of the first semester I joined the QUATRO club for dancing. The main club I was in was house dancing. As an African, dancing is something I do almost all the time and joining that club not only made me want to dance but also meet new people. I met a lot of very talented Japanese and international students, each with amazing dance moves!
The other club I joined was a basketball club. This was my favorite club but unfortunately due to covid-19 it had to be closed and we could no play.
Despite the missed opportunities caused by the pandemic, I had a lot of fun in Japan and I learned a lot about myself and gained a new understanding of the world while I was there. I shall never forget the courses I took and the teachers who shared their knowledge with me and allowed me to share mine with them.
TUFS for hosting me, putting me on JASSO scholarship which really helped and the African Studies Centre for making sure I was alright and enjoying my stay my in Japan. I would like to show my appreciation to the crowd-funding members for making it possible for me to go to Japan and last but not least Prof. Sasaki for sending me to Japan blessing me with that opportunity to learn, explore and make new connections.
Thank you all!