From July 1st to August 9th, I participated in Yale English Language Institute 2013. To tell the truth, this was my first time to go abroad. I have never even been for a short trip. Therefore, before my departure, I was very worried about American student life. My English was terrible and I’ve almost never talked with foreign people. However, my worry disappeared soon after the program started. This essay is especially for students who are not familiar with foreign countries but are interested in studying abroad. I’ll write honestly about what I felt throughout my experience in this program as a student who left Japan for the first time.
First, I’ll introduce the contents of this program briefly. This program has morning and afternoon classes. Every morning, we took two classes: a Reading & Writing class which meets for an hour and a half and a Speaking & Listening class which meets for an hour and fifteen minutes. The first day of this program, we took a test in order to measure our English levels and the students were divided into various classes, based on their scores. However, you don’t have to be nervous about this test because you can’t know your own result of the test. So, participating in the class actively is more important than preparing for the test. About afternoon classes, the participants could choose two or three elective classes. As there was no test like morning classes, we could choose any classes as we liked. Incidentally, I took TOEFL Preparation class, Business Games class and Idiomatic Speech Class. Perhaps, you will be surprised at the amount of assignments, yet we gradually got used to handling them. Besides, you will be impressed by every class in Yale because the form and style of every class is completely different from Japan’s. In Japan, classes are usually non-interactive, that is, in Japan’s classes, there is no student participation. We take notes and we only listen to teachers’ lectures. On the other hand, US’s classes are interactive, that is, in US’s classes, there are many opportunities to discuss or state our own opinions. It is difficult for Japanese students to participate in the discussion until they become accustomed to these kinds of classes, but this experience is very helpful for you because in the class discussion or conversation with your friends, you have to respond quickly and “think on your feet”. In Japan, when I speak English, I always think in Japanese and speak after I translate it into English but it takes time. Through this program, I got used to thinking in English. Therefore, I gradually became able to think in English, without the process of thinking in Japanese, at least in simple conversations. This is a very meaningful achievement for me because one of the aims in my participation was to develop my speaking skill. I believe you can get these opportunities, too.
As state above, the classes are very useful for improving your English skills, but six weeks is too short to study English if you speak English only in your classes. In my opinion, the important point you should bear in your mind in the Summer Session is to speak English “out of classes”. There are many students from all over the world. There are lots of chances to make foreign friends. You can acquire many opportunities to speak with these students. It’ll be wasteful if you only practice in the class rooms because you can do this by yourself even in Japan. As for me, thanks to my good friends, I could practice my conversation skill and learn cultural differences out of classes. This is what we can’t get in Japan. Besides, if possible, I strongly recommend you to go for trips with your foreign friends. If you do so, you will have to speak English all day long and also you can test your English in the real world.
Until now, I’ve only written about studying, but of course, there are also plenty of recreational activities. As mentioned above, on weekdays, I was at the library the whole time to study because I had a lot of assignments from some classes. But on weekends, there is time to travel around New Haven or other cities. The Yale staff prepares many kinds of activities for us. Needless to say, we didn’t have to attend these activities if we wanted to go on trips by ourselves. New Haven is very convenient to go to New York and Boston, or if you just “stretch your legs”, there are many more places beyond NY and Boston. Actually, some of my friends went to Washington D.C. and Toronto, Canada to see Niagara Falls. As for me, I went to NYC, Boston, the MLB etc. It is up to you, but you can have irreplaceable experiences in this Summer Session.
Through this program, I learned not only English and cultural differences, but also I realized Japan’s weaknesses and strengths. First of all, Japanese students don’t have the opportunity to practice speaking in English even though we’ve studied English for more than 10 years. Of course I had known this fact before I came to Yale, but I keenly realized the fact again. Japan’s English education system is a controversial topic in japan, but I strongly believe that a much quicker change is required.
Secondly, I was overwhelmed by the spirit of foreign students, especially of Chinese students. I felt energy from them that is somewhat different from Japanese students. I worry that we will be passed by other countries soon if Japan’s young students accept things as they are.
On the other hand, I thought Japanese students’ earnestness, politeness and thinking faculties rose above the crowd. Also, I was really glad to see many students use Japanese products regularly. In japan, there is a negative atmosphere about the motivation of young students or the situation of the manufacturing industry, but I am confident that Japan still has power to lead the world unless we stop making efforts. I might not have made these discoveries about Japan if I had not come to The United States. I’ve learned that there are many things we could discover for the first time by traveling outside of Japan. This program was a good chance for me to reconsider my own country.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the Friends of UTokyo for offering me this great opportunity to explore one of the best universities in the U.S. Actually, if I hadn’t received your generous support, I couldn’t have come to Yale to study, I couldn’t have met these great friends & teachers and couldn’t have understood the real situation of Japan.
Honestly, the monetary obstacle is very difficult for young students to overcome because students don’t have enough income. Like me, there are many students who are eager to study abroad, but who don’t have enough funds. Luckily, I received a scholarship from FUTI, but there are still many students who didn’t. I hope more scholarship systems will be developed to support excellent young students to study abroad. It will benefit not just the students, but the country that they represent.
Finally, I believe the summer study at Yale has become the essential step in my university study and surely has sharpened my point of view. I’m sure my experience in Yale Summer Session will affect my educational and personal future growth and I have FUTI to thank for this.